LIFE DIGEST: Designer babies ‘moral obligation,’ ethicist says

By Tom Strode
Aug 21, 2012

A leading bioethicist has promoted the creation of designer babies as a “moral obligation” in a popular, mainstream magazine, the British edition of Reader’s Digest.

Writing for the magazine’s September issue, Julian Savulescu said parents should be able to weed out embryos who test positive for personality traits that could prove harmful to “themselves and others.”

Also in this edition: Democratic platform excludes diversity language on abortion, Knoxville abortion clinic closes after 38 years, and Canadian doctors association: Child becomes human being at birth.

“Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children,” Savulescu wrote, according to an Aug. 16 report in The Telegraph.

Savulescu is an ethics professor at Oxford University and editor in chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith said Savulescu’s recommended path has been traveled before.

“Eugenics originated as a ‘moral obligation,’ moved from there to legal coercion, and ultimately crescendoed into the worst evils of human history,” Smith said at his blog. “And now many of those same ideas have regained sufficient respectability the Reader’s Digest editors think them worthy of respectable presentation. This won’t end well.”

According to The Telegraph, Savulescu also said, “If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery – then we should.”

Genetic screening already is performed in some cases, Savulescu pointed out.

“We’re routinely screening embryos and [fetuses] for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and [Down] syndrome, and there’s little public outcry,” he said.

“What’s more, few people protested at the decisions in the mid-2000s to allow couples to test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes, and this pushes us a lot [closer] to creating designer humans.

“Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now,” Savulescu wrote. “Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance.”

Democratic platform excludes diversity language on abortion

The Democratic platform committee has rejected an effort to acknowledge the diversity within its party over the abortion issue, and the party is poorer for it, according to Democrats for Life of America.

Meanwhile, the Republican platform committee has again approved language advocating for the legal protection of unborn babies. The section endorsed by the committee Aug. 21 said: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

The Democratic draft platform released Aug. 9 did not include a recognition that Democrats hold divergent views on abortion, thereby rejecting an effort by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) to include language that was in the 1996 platform. DFLA said the exclusion of language welcoming both pro-life and pro-choice voters greatly weakens the platform.

“For the good of the Democratic Party, we will continue to advocate that the platform language should reflect the true diversity of views within the Democratic Party,” DFLA Executive Director Kristen Day said. “Our message is simple: If you are pro-life and a Democrat, you can make a difference, thus the case for recognition. Inclusion can make a critical difference in this fall’s election.”

The Democratic Party has increasingly become identified with abortion rights in recent decades, though DLFA said nearly one third of Democrats identify themselves as pro-lifers. In 1978, Democrats held a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives with 292 seats, including 125 pro-life party members, according to DFLA. Now, only 17 of the 184 Democrats in the House are pro-life, DFLA said.

DLFA cited the following results from Gallup polling in 2011 to demonstrate the diversity in the party:

  • 84 percent of Democrats support informed consent for a woman seeking an abortion;
  • 61 percent back parental consent for a minor before an abortion;
  • 60 percent endorse a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion;
  • 59 percent support the ban on partial-birth abortion;
  • 49 percent back requiring an ultrasound test before an abortion.

Knoxville abortion clinic closes after 38 years

A Knoxville, Tenn., abortion clinic closed Aug. 10 because it did not have a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Volunteer Women’s Medical Clinic was forced to shut down after a state law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges took effect July 1. The clinic was no longer able to provide abortions without an approved physician. The facility could no longer meet its financial obligations because of an inability to see patients, said the center’s owner, Deb Walsh, in a message to supporters.

“I’m so angry about this, also sad, . . . ,” said Walsh, who had worked at the clinic for more than 30 years. The center had been open for 38 years, she said.

Pro-life advocates welcomed the closure, reducing to eight the number of abortion clinics in Tennessee. “Protective pro-life legislation saves lives,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life.

Canadian doctors association: Child becomes human being at birth

Canada’s leading doctors association has approved a resolution that says an unborn child does not become a human being until it is fully born.

Delegates to the annual General Council meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) voted Aug. 15 to endorse wording in Canada’s Criminal Code that says a baby “becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother . . . ”

The resolution was intended to stop a “backdoor” effort in Parliament to renew a debate about abortion by revising the code, said the delegate who proposed it, the CMA reported.

Canadian Physicians for Life decried the resolution, declaring “every Canadian doctor knows that the unborn child is a live human being,” according to

The CMA General Council meeting was held in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to protect the sanctity of human life. If you would like to learn more about this issue, additional resources are available here. Our free, downloadable Impact resource is also available online. If your church is interested in purchasing materials on the sanctity of human life, please visit our online bookstore and

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