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Years from now, the current battle between pro-life/pro-choice advocates will seem primitive. It's significance, however, will not be forgotten. For the current debate over abortion will have marked the beginning of radical moral and political decisions -- to intervene into the nine-month process of developing human life. But the form of intervention is about to change drastically.
For, in the next thirty years we will face a more frightening reality and a significantly deeper dilemma. Bio-engineering will lead pro-choice advocates to move beyond demanding the right and freedom to end unwanted pregnancies. They will demand the right to engineer super-human offspring. The fight, like now, will be fought in the courts and in Congress. Pro-life advocates, on the other hand, will be not defending just the life of the unborn; they will be fighting for the continuance of human nature as we know it.
Bill McKibben, author of "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age," talks about his strenuous effort to run in the Boston Marathon. He finished an hour and half behind the winner. It was not that he had beaten his targeted time-three hours and twenty minutes-by 14 seconds. It was the exhilaration of enduring the pain and muscle atrophy, working months for the moment of crossing the finish line. Finishing a 26 mile race. He then considered the very real possibility that parents and lab technicians will soon have the ability and choice to create offspring with bodies that have greater capacity for the blood to carry oxygen, or larger lungs. For these improved humans, running the Boston Marathon will be a non-event. They will hardly push their limits, or test their wills or tolerate the excruciating muscle pain of the last five miles.
Of course marathons could be lengthened to 52 miles. And the 26 mile marathon demoted to a 10K-like race. (What will Olympic committees do with the new super-athletes?)
But pro-choice advocates 2030 will demand much more than engineered children who are stronger or healthier. Dean Hamer, chief of gene structure and regulation at the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Biochemistry authored an essay envisioning a time when parents would go to a clinic, and choose to alter an embryo so the child's emotional nature will be that of Mother Teresa or the most vicious entrepreneur. This would be their choice, they will say. This is their right, they will tell us, just as it is their right to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability.
One of the most disturbing intellectual journeys I traveled was through several works by Harvard bio-sociologist E.O. Wilson. After reading of the extraordinary genetically programmed skills and instincts of ants and insects, I read Wilson's On Human Nature. Most of the long essay dismissed the concept of human freedom, with human behavior reduced to the interplay between genetically-inherited traits and the environment. Until the end, the last few pages. There Wilson proposes the one remaining human freedom. "The human species can change its own nature." This was the only sliver of human choice.
To be pro-life thirty years from now will mean to defend the arbitrariness and uncertainty of allowing the developing life within the pregnant mother. Moral character is the very challenge of overcoming the limitations of both an individual's inherited nature and the circumstances within which early development occurs. That's why conservatives oppose discriminatory affirmative action. So long as there is a fair playing surface, each individual should be rewarded for having taken what skills he or she has inherited and compete for achievement.
It is also why most liberal pro-choice advocates also support affirmative action. Stemming from apparent compassion, modern pro-choice liberals have no problem with changing the playing field or the rules to compensate for what they believe is unfair competition. That intervention in the future will include not just changing the playing field, but changing the genetic makeup of the individual to compensate for inferiority's or inadequacies. Pro-choice advocates of the future will make the same argument for bio-engineered offspring.
Pro-life advocates will be stigmatized. Their views, dismissed as archaic. They will need courage and faith. Their offspring will compete first in schools and then in the marketplace against peers engineered with superior skills and traits. To be pro-life thirty years hence will continue to mean trust and faith in the dignity of each individual. But in the face of bio-engineered offspring, pro-life advocates will need to resist the temptation to tamper with genetic traits, to trust in the power of individuals to persist, to learn and adapt and to overcome. In sum, to be pro-life will mean being pro-human nature as we know it. To be pro-choice, like in terminating a pregnancy, will mean to be god-like, and with it, all the dangers and consequences that come with that arrogance.
Write to Arthur at email@example.com
Arthur Bruzzone has written over 250 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political and urban issues for American and European television and radio networks. He is an award-winning public affairs television producer/host.His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. Mr. Bruzzone holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from C.U.A in Washington , D.C., and a M.B.A. in real estate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the Kingdom of Tonga, and the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. He is president of a leading real estate investment company in San Francisco.
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