Not too long ago, buzz was created from a study that linked autism to vaccines that were built on the cell lines of aborted babies. I had remarked at the time that, notwithstanding the assertion that vaccines were somehow related to the rise in autism, many people would be shocked just to find out that some of their vaccines were derived from aborted children. For the purpose of this essay, I will leave aside the issue of autism possibly being connected to vaccines.
Of course, the first thought one has when encountering that information is that what is alleged is that vaccines are made from the continual harvesting of aborted remains. To the best of my knowledge, that is not what is happening, and personally I have not seen that asserted, except by those who rise to rebut that assertion. That some vaccines are built on the cell lines that trace back to aborted humans is undisputed, however.
Here is a link to someone that I respect (and presumably respects me, since in another place he links to my own site) that documents this: Vaccines DO NOT Contain Fetal Tissue. Another person sent me a link which also explained that:
Varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis A, shingles and one preparation of rabies vaccine are all made in fetal embryo fibroblast cells. These cells were first obtained from elective termination of two pregnancies in the early 1960s. These same embryonic cells obtained from the early 1960s have continued to grow in the laboratory and are used to make vaccines today. No further sources of fetal cells are needed to make these vaccines.
Dr. Wile seems to think that killing of the babies was wrong, but that their use in making these vaccines is good, for it provides a greater ‘silver lining’:
Two innocent babies were killed. However, they were able to donate something that has been used not only to make vaccines, but in many medical research projects over the years. Thus, these cells have been saving millions of lives for almost two generations! Although the babies were clearly murdered, the fact that their cells have been saving lives is at least a silver lining in the dark cloud of their tragic murder.
Hopefully at this point, however, no one will argue with me that it is a fact that some vaccines are derived from aborted humans, albeit just a small number of humans, some time in the past.
I should clarify, however, that this is written specifically with those who are opposed to abortion in mind, and in particular Christians. If you are not a Christian and you support “elective abortion” then this is not written for you. If you are in that camp but still disgusted by the notion of human remains being used to generate vaccines, then I advise you to hurry on over to hear Jacob Appel argue that society should welcome a market for aborted remains. Such a market would allow women to finance their way through college, for example. He writes:
Opponents of reproductive choice will object to such a market on the grounds that it will increase the number of abortions — which will indeed be the logical result. However, such a market might also bring solace to women who have already decided upon abortion, but desire that some additional social good come from the procedure. Like the families of accident victims who donate the organs of their loved ones, these women could well find their decisions fortified by the public benefit that they generate. An additional economic incentive would further assuage any doubts, and might even make the procedure more palatable to otherwise equivocal spouses or partners. Of course, those who believe that life begins at conception will never find such a market desirable. But for those of us, myself included, who sincerely believe that human life begins far later in the growth process, I believe that we have a moral duty to women to give due consideration to the legalization of such a fetal-organ trade. Society should not curtail a woman’s economic liberty without a compelling reason any more than it should curtail her reproductive liberty.
Appel believes that such a position is the logical extension of the pro-choice concept of ‘reproductive liberty.’ He is absolutely right. If you accept abortion on demand, you should certainly allow women to sell off the baby parts. If you are disgusted by that, it probably means your real problem is you shouldn’t even accept abortion on demand. But I digress.
In Appel’s statement, we see the ‘silver lining’ argument re-stated (I italicized it so the reader would notice it).
Interestingly, though, Appel compares the selling of a woman’s own aborted child with the donating of organs of people who die in accidents. Surely there is a difference between making a profit from the systemic intentional killing of humans and trying to make the best of a tragic situation? On such a scheme as Appel proposes, can we not suppose that women will begin conceiving for the express purpose of killing their offspring, and should not society welcome this with open hands? And why should it matter that the offspring is ‘terminated’ within the womb? Why not after the child is born?
Before you protest that this is absurd, remember that Peter Singer has argued that even born children can’t be seen as entitled to life until, say–guesstimating, here…cuz its hard to find a clear line in such matters!… two years of age, and ‘ethicists’ Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have argued in a journal submission titled After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live? (which cites Singer) that “when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.” At what age, exactly, can a born person be ‘terminated’? “[I]t is hard to exactly determine when a subject starts or ceases to be a ‘person’” they write, because, after all:
Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.
Hopefully the above quotes, in particular Appel’s and Giubilini and Minerva’s, illustrate that the principles that drive abortion on demand, when taken to their logical conclusion, do not cease to apply once one has made the trip down the birth canal. Appel, for example, in another journal article, has argued that certain born people, when it is expected that those people will have lives of suffering, should be euthanized, and the state should be in charge of the killing. I kid you not–the whole point of his article (titled: Neonatal Euthanasia: Why Require Parental Consent?”) is to say that parents cannot be trusted to do the hard, but right, choice, and kill the disabled child, so the state should intervene, mediated through the doctors. Importantly, he argues that this is logically consistent, and the logical conclusion, if one has adopted a secular ethic, saying that his position is the “inevitable consequence of our progress toward liberal humanism.”
Appel limits his argument to “cases of suffering, terminally ill infants” but we really need to ask ourselves why it matters that they are suffering or even infants. Did not Giubilini and Minerva extend their argument to adults, albeit “criminals where capital punishment is legal”? Has not Peter Singer argued, “If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone”? All human lives, of all ages, healthy or not, are rife with suffering, so it would be better, he says, if the whole human race be sterilized to ensure no human lives suffer as we have. So says, Singer. Not me.
From this logical progression, it is abundantly clear that the principles that call for the discarding and use of ‘fetal’ human lives justify the discarding and use of all human lives. To this date, I have not seen a secular humanist argument that could not rationally be applied to your average, healthy, adult human male. The only rational argument against growing adult men, say, for the use of harvesting their organs, seems to be self-interest–since I’m pretty sure anyone trying to implement such a scheme would soon have to deal with the business end of pitchforks.
Of course, many atheistic liberal secular humanists would insist otherwise, but then, they aren’t the audience intended for this essay.
Many of the arguments portrayed above have been discussed and implemented in the past, creating a foul stench that remains in our nostrils to this day. The similarities are not superficial. Appel, for example, explains why having doctors euthanize children when the parents won’t, hasn’t caught on in all countries, saying that it “is not terribly surprising, considering the twentieth century’s disturbing experiences with race-based eugenics and Nazi extermination.” He appears to be unaware of the fact that before the Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews, nay, before the Nazis even existed, scholars–German and European and American–had concluded that there was no real moral problem in killing born people of all ages if their lives were deemed ‘life unworthy of life.’
When the Nazis took power, they began acting on the principles established and defended by the reputable ethicists Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, and before they tried to wipe out the Jews, they targeted disabled people, including German disabled people, in what would become known as the T4 Project. The technology used for exterminating Jews in vast numbers was developed first for exterminating handicapped people in vast numbers. So much for Appel’s characterization that the Nazis acted on principles of “race-based eugenics.” The Nazis saw what they were doing as a public health measure that was not only good for the state, but good for the persons who were being killed, and therefore, as Binding and Hoche argued, a moral imperative… just as Appel sees it as a moral imperative, although he limited his analysis to the very young, and did not extend it to older people, the way the Nazis did.
(The author of this present essay is the publisher of Binding and Hoche’s seminal work, “Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life,” so it may be inferred he knows something of the matter.)
What does any of this have to do with the cell lines of aborted children to create vaccines?
Having now officially arrived, legitimately and justly, at logic’s end in the Holocaust, we remember acutely that the Nazis did not only kill Jews, gypsies, and disabled people, but they performed nasty medical experiments on them, often while they were still alive.
The details of these experiments are ghastly, but there is one thing going for them, and that is that they produced extremely useful and reliable information about the human anatomy that had not been available before. You can only learn so much through dissection, you see. And besides, many, if not most, of the people they did their experiments on were going to be killed in the ovens, anyway. Why not make the best of an unfortunate situation?
Thanks to the Nazis, we know oodles about how to revive someone who has hypothermia; they nearly froze people to death and tried various ways to bring them back from the brink of death. Our medical knowledge in some areas was significantly advanced because of these experiments. Let us presume that every reader will find this quite detestable, but let us ponder a different question: can we ethically used this information, despite its torrid origins?
We’ve now come full circle with our “silver lining” argument. The results of the Nazi medical experiments (and also ones conducted by the Japanese during the same time frame, but lets not forget the American Tuskegee experiments!) produced some really good stuff that has conceivably saved many lives and potentially could save many more. Are we wrong to use this information? Do we dishonor them if we don’t?
What if it was not information, but rather the organs of the ones killed in those experiments?
We now come hard and fast on the distinction between the use of an organ taken from someone who has died in an accident, or even a malevolent act of homicide, versus one that is intentionally killed to provide a health benefit, public or private, and worse (if that were possible), part of a socially acceptable institution where such killings were done systemically. I would be willing to wager that many people reading this would be disturbed to learn that some particular treatment was based in some part on a Nazi medical experiment but would probably go forward with it, especially if one’s very life was on the line, but would recoil at using one of the body parts of the person killed in that experiment, all the more so when it is known that it was part of a program that tortured tens of thousands. But why? Shouldn’t the “silver lining” argument still hold? Shouldn’t we be delighted to find some positive benefit?
After all, it is not like there would be ongoing killing of people to procure those organs, right?
According to the “silver lining” argument, we of a Christian, pro-life perspective could ethically used the organs harvested from the victim of a Nazi medical experiment, even as we deplored how the organ was obtained, just as we, we of a Christian, pro-life perspective could ethically use cell lines from aborted humans. In neither case, after all, is there a continual harvesting involved, right?
May I submit that there is a qualitative and substantive difference between using information obtained through a murderous scheme and using the very body of the murdered, such that even if it were suddenly possible to give every person alive perfect health and immortality by utilizing the parts of a murdered person, it would be wrong, to do so. Would it make a difference if the person were murdered for quite another reason and that the parts were only indirectly involved, say, to be used as a petri dish for cultivating some kind of miracle drug? So then, we’d only need one or two murdered people–such as is the case with using vaccinations that utilize cells derived from aborted humans.
If this suddenly seems to the Christian reader that we’ve brushed up against high theology, wherein we remember that it is precisely through a murdered person, namely Jesus Christ, that all who receive the ‘treatment’ will receive perfect health and immortality, I think you begin to see just how deeply we must consider this issue. At least in the case of Jesus, he voluntarily gave up his life so that the rest of us might live. In the case of these aborted humans, the ones who did the volunteering (so we are told… as if it makes a difference…) were the mothers, not the aborted humans.
I would wager that for all of us, our analysis would change dramatically if instead of being presented with the utilization of organs or cell lines of people who were murdered we were presented with the organs or cell lines of people who voluntarily and willingly consented. Is that not reflected in our general acceptance today of the use of dead people (we call them ‘cadavers’ at that point) for medical research and not the Burke and Hare style of acquiring cadavers?
I trust that every decent person alive, Christian or not, would rather die then even use information, let alone body parts, if the primary way that these were obtained was to murder people to get it, or derive it from murdered people more generally.
And yet, the primary way that some of our vaccines are created is extended from the murder of a handful of humans, about as many decades ago as when the Holocaust and the T4 projects occurred.
Before I take some time to more directly state the principles that can make something more or less ethical (for the Christian), let me take some time to re-visit the arguments made by the secular scholars and ethicists above, because I believe there is quite a bit more at stake if we make ourselves comfortable with utilizing human remains in vaccines than an outbreak of chicken pox or the measles. There is the very real problem that certain propositions have certain logical implications and certain natural consequences.
As illustrated above, there is a logical progression from the principles that justify abortion on demand, where if you accept them, logic requires you to extend them further. Hence Appel’s statement that state-enforced ‘therapeutic euthanasia’ is “the inevitable consequence of our progress toward liberal humanism”, Giubilini and Minerva’s conclusion that,
If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn. [emphasis added]
Binding and Hoche’s conclusion that the same reasoning, that lives deemed “life unworthy of life” by the state, when healthy or not, can be killed, to Singer’s conclusion that the really rational and compassionate thing to do is bring the whole human race to a screeching halt via (he says) voluntary sterilization.
These things are all of a piece, and on the same continuum. It is all part of the fabric of the same worldview. You cannot accept just a little part of it without logically accepting the whole part. And history gives us a clear example of what happens when a society has accepted the whole shebang, and it wasn’t pretty.
Appel astutely noted that establishing a market in ‘fetal body parts’ will be objected to by “opponents of reproductive choice will object to such a market on the grounds that it will increase the number of abortions — which will indeed be the logical result”
Though somewhat more subtle, isn’t it self-evident that accepting the use of aborted human remains will also, logically, increase the number of areas where aborted humans are used, if not also the number of abortions as well?
Is it not the case already that opponents of embryonic stem cells are faced with proponents who submit the “silver lining” argument? (The proponents, of course, are usually mystified that anyone could be opposed to embryonic stem cells in the first place, usually for all the very same reasons that justify abortion on demand.)
Do we not already see an expansive market in the use of ‘fetal’ baby cells, with founded suspicions that embryonic parts are being used by the makers of soft drinks to tweak the flavors of their products? (See here; note the similarity in the fact that the ‘parts’ are actually derived from cell lines… and also the apparent progression from a small handful of murdered humans, to the possible need for an ongoing supply. Someone would have to ask Senomyx where they are getting their ‘fetal’ supplies to know if that progression is actually taking place, or not.)
And will anyone really deny that there has already been an explosion in the use of aborted humans for research purposes? At this point, God only knows what products and services the average person in America makes use of that were obtained or derived from aborted humans. Appel’s complaint, after all, was that the women themselves were not able to profit from this situation. At any rate, here are two articles (on one page) that you can use as a start for your investigation to corroborate this, but really, admit it, you know it’s true. Any organization that has seen fit to make it their business to give abortions on demand will not think twice about how to make additional money from the 60,000,000+ aborted humans in America alone, since Roe vs. Wade. Where do you think all those bodies are going? In Asia, they eat them!
From one of those articles:
Brenda Bardsley, vice president of the Anatomic Gift Foundation, or AGF, tells Insight, “It’s sad, but maybe it makes it [abortion] easier for us knowing that something good will come out of it.” She adds, “We’re doing our best in an unpleasant situation.” Bardsley says the AGF’s fetal-tissue retrieval accounts for “less than 10 percent of the company’s business” and there are strict rules controlling when and under what conditions a technician may perform the procedures. “The decision to go ahead with the abortion,” says Bardsley, “must be made before the woman is approached about donation, and we don’t get access to the cadaver until the physician has firmly established death.” Nearly 75 percent of the women who choose abortion agree to donate the fetal tissue, she says.
I suggested earlier that we consider our feelings if we were asked to make use of information if it was generated on an on-going basis from the continuation of Nazi medical experiments, or from murdered people more generally. There is the thought that since we are only talking about a small handful of aborted humans who were used to develop and sustain the cell lines used in some vaccines, we can swallow our heartache in light of the prospect that ‘something good may come out of it.’ But now we learn from Brenda Bardsley that 75% of the women who engage in ‘elective abortions’ donate the remains. True, these remains may not be going to formulate vaccines, but it simply is not the case that we are talking about some kind of isolated utilization of murdered children. It is an ongoing program, right here in the good ol’ United States of America!
The utilization of a cell line from aborted humans in the case of some vaccines is just one example of such use, and so should appropriately be seen as the tip of the iceberg of the American version of profiting from a holocaust that makes the Holocaust seem tiny in comparison. Yet, we condemn the Germans, and struggle over the ethics of using Nazi medical technology or even some aspects of their ideology which we’d like to redeem ‘for the common good’). What we ought to be doing is condemning the whole ‘iceberg,’ not making peace with a tip of it.
I am not saying that the acceptance of the use of aborted humans to develop vaccines led to our present situation. I do not know enough to know if that is the case. From my readings, talk about making a profit from human body parts, alive and/or dead, has been around for a long time. But to return to Appel’s point about the open establishment of a market that this will lead to a greater number of abortions, isn’t it just common sense that the open acceptance of the use of aborted human remains, even for ‘noble’ purposes, will similarly lead to wider use–and consequently, to more abortions? And from there, where?
In the sad case of Brenda Bardsley above, we get a good full look at the ‘silver lining’ argument. Indeed, in an article where she was quoted defending herself, she lays out her Christian credentials:
“Abortion is legal, but tragic. We see what we’re doing as trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Mrs. Bardsley told WORLD. “We don’t encourage abortion, but we see that good can come from fetal-tissue research. There is so much wonderful research going on-research that can help save the lives of wanted children.”
Mrs. Bardsley says she teaches her own children that abortion is wrong. A Deep South transplant with a brisk, East coast accent, Mrs. Bardsley and her family attend a Southern Baptist church near their home on the Satilla River in White Oak, Ga. Mrs. Bardsley homeschools her three children using, she says, a Christian curriculum: “I’ve been painted as this monster, but here I am trying to give my kids a Christian education,” she says, referring to other media coverage of AGF’s fetal-parts enterprise.
Mrs. Bardsley says she’s prayed over whether her business is acceptable in God’s sight, and has “gotten the feeling” that it is. She also, she says, reads the Bible “all the time.” And though she can’t cite a chapter and verse that says it’s OK to cut and ferry baby parts, she points out that God commands us to love one another. For Mrs. Bardsley, aiding medical research by supplying fetal parts qualifies. If they were in it for the money rather than for the good of mankind, says Mrs. Bardsley, AGF could charge much higher prices for fetal tissue than it does, because research demand is so high.
May God strike me dead and send me straight to hell if I ever utter such words.
At any rate, here is your ‘silver lining’ argument in glorious, profitable, practice.
Considering how much money such organizations are making, we may very well wonder how much money organizations such as Planned Parenthood make by allowing these organizations to make money. We may therefore wonder whether or not Planned Parenthood supports abortion on demand because of the woman and the aborted child’s interests… or to make a hefty buck.
Work it from another angle.
The ‘research demand is so high’ for ‘fetal tissue’ because we, the American people, like to enjoy products and services that are available because of such research. If we didn’t, there would be less profit motive for groups like Mrs. Bardsley’s, which in turn would make groups like Planned Parenthood less profitable and therefore less adamant in their support for abortion on demand and therefore, there would be less abortions. Remember what Appel said: a market in fetal organs would lead logically to more abortions. He is quite right; are we so sure that such a market has already been established, and to some extent and in some way, even pro-life Christians have been beneficiaries? Is it possible that through our dollars, unbeknownst to us, we have facilitated the very atrocity we find so abhorrent?
But, we do our best, don’t we? When we learn that a company such as Pepsi might be using cells derived from embryos to simulate “taste receptors” we get right on the ball and threaten a boycott. Once we know about such a use, we lodge our complaint and let our dollars do some talking, too!
But not, it seems, when it comes to some vaccines. No, for those we turn to the ‘silver lining’ argument.
Of particular interest–though I’m sure there is no connection–we believe we directly benefit from these vaccines.
God help us.
I promised earlier to lay out some principles–for Christians–that are genuinely ethical and consistent with a Biblical worldview. I happen to think that when the other principles hold sway in a society, a culture of death emerges which will inevitably and inexorably lead to the disposal of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, not just the weak, infirm, and vulnerable. I wouldn’t dare set a time table, but my point is that even if it is only for strictly mercenary reasons, we would do well to keep these principles in mind, lest things escalate beyond our worst imaginings. Of course, I would hope that as Christians we would have more in mind than just our own best interest. I am willing to concede that in this fallen world, with all of its dark complexities, good people can differ on some of these issues, including on the validity of the ‘silver lining’ argument. I do hope, however, that I have painted a sufficiently clear picture that there is far more at stake here than might initially have come to mind.
Without further ado, here is a quick, very general, run-down.
1., Did someone die in order that we could make use of a product/service?
If yes, STOP. Do not use that product/service.
2., Was someone deliberately killed for some other reason, and then afterwards had their body used for some purpose?
If yes, ask:
Were they killed because they were a convicted criminal subject to capital punishment?
If yes, proceed with caution. Sometimes, even ‘consenting’ individuals are coerced in ways we cannot accept.
If no, you’d best find out why they were killed. Was it so another person’s career wouldn’t be impacted? Was the person killed to save money for the health system? etc., you get the picture. Probably in most cases, if you answer ‘no’ to this, STOP. DO not use this product/service.
3. Was someone accidentally killed, and then afterwards had their body used, with the un-coerced consent and knowledge of loved ones and/or the person who died themselves (ie, as may have been made clear on an organ donor card)?
If yes, you’re probably going to be ok, but remember that sometimes ‘consent’ is more coerced than we realize.
Motives matter, and likewise the reasons we bring to bear to them. I would argue that history shows us clearly that in scenarios #1 and #2 above, when the dead human is later utilized “for the common good,” things advanced inexorably in a particular direction, such that if you answered “no” in #2, there was no good reason not to proceed to #1. What makes something a ‘common good’ turns out to be very much in the eye of the beholder. It’s best not to go down that road at all.
In my opinion, the ‘silver lining’ argument is only valid and is only safe to society, in scenario #3, and even there, in a society that has fully embraced Appel’s “liberal humanism” is fraught with dangers. But this raises even more difficulties, especially for the Christian: just how many of the values and beliefs do we have that are part and parcel of a worldview that is incompatible with Biblical values? how many of the products and services are the fruit of values that are incompatible with Biblical values, or worse, actually built from those values?
This line of thought raises practical difficulties, as it is nearly impossible to know the source and development of the bulk of services and products we use. This reality itself leads to the need to invoke a form of the ‘silver lining’ argument, for in some very important ways, there is just no way to ensure that our lifestyle is free of ‘tainted’ elements. Indeed, might it even be said that to do anything, use anything–to live at all–is to come to terms with the fact that we have to make the best out of a fallen, sinful world? Many readers will have encountered this issue for the first time, and may feel quite convicted about it, having given and received vaccination shots without knowing that some of them could entail moral compromise. To now wonder just how many other instances are like this might prove overwhelming.
God has forgiven of us of all sins, known and unknown. We would not be eternally saved even if we did purge ourselves from unrighteousness, which, as anyone familiar with the Scriptures knows, cannot be done anyway, and is really the whole point of the Gospel. We cannot beat ourselves up too much. Nonetheless, we must be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. We must be thoughtful and careful. We cannot take things for granted, even if we are surrounded by those who do. The Scriptures call us to be discerning.
Is it possible for a Christian in good conscience to use vaccines derived from aborted babies? Well, I suggested that such a thing could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of a much more pervasive and pernicious ‘culture of death.’ I have tried to give some evidence for why I think that is worth your consideration, but it is of course possible that it can be defended on independent grounds. That is, one might admit (as I suspect Dr. Wile might, when he sees this) that the ‘iceberg’ is very real and of grave concern, but these sorts of vaccines, or vaccination in general, is not made of ‘ice’ at all, rather it reflects some other ethos, which Christians can embrace, or at least endure. In the spirit of Romans 14 that says (highly abridged),
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. …
…. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
My hope is that at the very least, someone coming across this essay will do their part in becoming “fully convinced in their own mind.” Thus far, our obligation.
After that, “To their own master, servants stand or fall.”