Science, Choice, and Ethics

Reading through today’s Freshly Pressed, as I do most days, I found this blog to be heartfelt. “Defriended Over a Wedding, a Straight Man Gains Perspective” Naturally, the topic of gay marriage is a touchy one to a lot of people, but one comment in particular seemed to be gaining a bit of infamy and, to put it lightly, pissed off a lot of other readers:

Now, of course, they say it occurs in the womb, and is not a choise. Then when will science give parents a real choice in the matter, after all the same progressives believe that it is not human until it exits the womb!

I think what he’s trying to say is that IF homosexuality is genetic, meaning they are born gay (and let’s all admit, there will always be debate about this one), what would the pro-choicers say to a genetic test that could allow parents the choice to let the child be born? If these “progressives” as he calls them believe life begins AFTER birth, not before, would homosexuality still be something you were born with? Would you be allowed to terminate a pregnancy on the basis that you didn’t want a “gay child” because of the results of this test? What would any of us say to something like that? What would pro-lifers do if they knew their child would be gay? Would they abort the pregnancy and save their child “from sin”? Personally, I don’t believe genetic testing of any type should be done unless there is a real risk of death in early infancy as a result of a genetic condition the child may carry. (And yes, I opted out of such testing when I was pregnant. My beliefs are that God gave me the children He did because I was the best mother for them.) They are already screening pregnancies worldwide for Down Syndrome and letting women abort their pregnancies on the outcome of those results (up to 90% of DS positive pregnancies are aborted for this reason, in contrast 3 to 7% of positives can be false. Averaging 5% false positives, at a 90% abortion rate, odds are more likely that those 5/100 false positives will be aborted or at least 4 of them will be). They are currently working on prenatal testing to determine if a child would develop autism, something my daughter and I both have. Would I have been born if my mother knew I would have Aspergers? That her grandchildren could be autistic?

The argument he lacked elegance in making was simple:
1) Is homosexuality a choice or something your born with?
2) If there was a genetic test for it, prenatally, would it be ethical to terminate the pregnancy based on the results of the test?
3) Would the “progressives” cry foul and switch arguments on abortion IF more pregnancies were aborted on the basis of genetic predetermination of sexual orientation?
I think on some level it is a question we must all ask ourselves: Would it make a difference to us?
As an anti-homosexuality, pro-lifer, would you still be pro-life if you knew your child would be gay? How would that effect your views on the pregnancy?
As a person who supports the “homosexuality is born” idea and is pro-choice, are you still pro-choice if it means that a subculture of people would be destroyed because of something they are “born with”? And if, in fact, you see that as wrong, why is then not wrong to do it to children with Down Syndrome or Autism?

These are tough questions, but as science moves forward and we get closer to proving many parts of our lives, choices, and personalities are, in fact, genetic, what does that do to the views we hold? What does that do to the choices we make? Google: Designer Babies Debate, people have been trying to play God for years by altering the genetic code of embryos to produce children with certain hair or eye colors, to allow them to look more like one parent or the other, or to avoid having big ears like their grandfather. Time magazine did in article on this topic way back in 1999! Where does that end and what’s the difference if we begin altering the genetic code to “remove” homosexuality from the child before it was born? These are not religious questions.

As science moves forward, we as society need to be responsible for the outcome of scientific breakthroughs. Science makes leaps and bounds every day, are we ready for the ethical dilemmas some of these leaps bring?


3 thoughts on “Science, Choice, and Ethics

  1. Andrea Kelly says:

    “Science makes leaps and bounds every day, are we ready for the ethical dilemmas some of these leaps bring?”
    This is an excellent question. Great post, You bring up some really important points.

  2. Don says:

    These are indeed some very interesting questions you’ve asked. If I may respond to them in order:
    1) Homosexuality is not a choice any more than any other personal preference. I don’t like fish – I didn’t choose not to like fish, I just don’t. My wife doesn’t like red meat – again, she just doesn’t. If homosexuality is a choice, then heterosexuality must equally be a choice. Did you choose to find the opposite sex attractive, or do you ‘just do’?

    As for whether it is something we are born with, it’s not clear. As yet, there have been no genetic markers found correlating with homosexuality, but I’m not aware of genes being found for ANY personal preference. I’ve read an interesting study that found certain other physical characteristics more common to gay people than straight, one of which was the direction of the hair whorl (the spot on the back of your head where the hair direction spirals).

    Personally, I think it is obviously not a choice (“Hmmm, how can I get beat up more…?”), and whether or not a person is born with it doesn’t really matter, as I see it as part of who they are, and frankly, my life and my marriage suffers nothing if a guy wants to get freaky with another guy.

    2) No, of course it wouldn’t. One could make the case for abortion in the case of Down’s Syndrome, for example, on the grounds that the child will have a great deal of difficulty operating as a functional person and are possibly in store for a lifetime of hardship – it’s a ‘quality of life’ issue (don’t misunderstand me – I would NOT be for this).

    Homosexuals, however, are perfectly capable of normal, healthy lives, as normal members of society. The only reason it could be said to be a negative trait is due to the personal preference of the parents. Just as it would be wrong to terminate a pregnancy because your child will have the wrong color eyes or hair, not wanting to have a kid with a sex life that makes you uncomfortable isn’t a reason to abort.

    3) Yes, the “progressives” would cry foul if pregnancies started being aborted with the goal of not having a gay child. I wouldn’t see that as switching tracks though, since what they’re after is actually equal rights. No matter how you look at it, you cannot say that terminating gay fetuses would amount to equal rights.

    Now I have an interesting (tongue-in-cheek) question for you:
    Homosexuality isn’t a choice – I know several gay men, and I can swear to that. So let’s take that right off the table and look at the two alternatives.
    A) God made them that way. But as I hear a lot, God apparently ‘hates fags’. So why does he keep making them?
    B) Homosexuality is a genetic trait you are born with. Ok, fine, but gay people, as a rule, don’t reproduce, so how does the ‘gay gene’ keep getting passed along?
    Either way, they are, as Mr. Spock would say, “quite illogical”.

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