July 5, 2022

NY Times columnist attacks “liberal bioethics”

Progressive bioethics came under attack this week in the New York Times. Columnist Ross Douthat complained that the growing acceptance of “foetal reduction”, or the abortion of one or more foetuses in a multiple birth, illustrated the failure of “liberal” thinkers to say No to anything. The column has been whizzing around the blogosphere, creating much comment.

Progressive bioethics came under attack this week in the New York Times. Columnist Ross Douthat complained that the growing acceptance of “foetal reduction”, or the abortion of one or more foetuses in a multiple birth, illustrated the failure of “liberal” thinkers to say No to anything. The column has been whizzing around the blogosphere, creating much comment.

Douthat points out that the leading advocate of foetal reduction, Dr Mark Evans, changed his mind between 1988 and 2004. At first he declared that most reductions below twins was unethical. Doctors should not be “technicians to our patients’ desires.” But 20 years later, Evans endorsed the abortion of a twin because older women find twin too difficult.

Douthat concludes:

From embryo experimentation to selective reduction to the eugenic uses of abortion, liberals always promise to draw lines and then never actually manage to draw them. Like Dr. Evans, they find reasons to embrace each new technological leap while promising to resist the next one — and then time passes, science marches on, and they find reasons why the next moral compromise, too, must be accepted for the greater good, or at least tolerated in the name of privacy and choice. You can always count on them to worry, often perceptively, about hypothetical evils, potential slips down the bioethical slope. But they’re either ineffectual or accommodating once an evil actually arrives. Tomorrow, they always say — tomorrow, we’ll draw the line. But tomorrow never comes.

Michael Cook
abortion
bioethics
US