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Abortion Essay, Research Paper
Fetal tissue research is the process of using fetal tissue, derived from legal
abortions, for scientific research into fundamental biological processes and
human development. In addition, transplantation research uses fetal tissue to
study potential treatment of life treating diseases. Recent legislation
attempting to allow federal funding for stem cell research, a form of fetal
tissue research, has caused this subject to be drawn into debate.
Fetal tissue research often is morally and ethically controversial in that it is
confused with the issues of abortion. Many people try to justify their position
on fetal tissue research by proving or disproving the humanity of the fetus;
however, in this paper I plan to give the fetus the benefit of the doubt by
giving it the status of a full-fledged person. This allows for the elimination
of any issues associated with the morality of the abortion and allows for the
separation from the equivocal points involved in the abortion debate. I also
intend to only deal with the problems affiliated with consciously aborted
fetuses. This is due to the fact that, generally, researchers deal less with
spontaneously aborted fetuses and stillbirth fetuses because they are often
associated with genetic defects. I intend to argue that fetal tissue research
is a morally legitimate standpoint.
By accepting the assumption that fetuses are persons then abortion would be a
form of murder. If killing innocent persons is murder and fetuses, according to
the assumption, are persons; then killing fetuses is murder. Hence, it must
follow that in order for research on aborted fetal tissue to be proven as
morally admissible; then research on murdered person’s tissue must also be
proven admissible. The following is a situation where research on murdered
person’s tissue is comparable to that on aborted fetal tissue:
Suppose that twenty-five year old persons (verses fetuses) were found to possess
cells that the scientific community believed might have a beneficial effect on
humanity. While trying to study these cells the scientists came across a
problem. They found themselves unable to perform research on the individuals
because the tests that they needed to perform in their research caused an
instant death to its subjects. Nonetheless, they found themselves able to
perform the tests on persons that were previously dead. They started a program
where they attained murdered bodies of twenty-five year olds that have gone
unclaimed in order to perform research on them.
In our society would the scientists’ program be morally sound? The answer lies
in the rights of the person who has been murdered. If the murdered persons were
to maintain any rights (e.g. life, liberty and the pursuit of land) then the
scientists’ rights to research would be out weighed (lest the individual allowed
the research). What rights can murdered persons (i.e. aborted fetuses) have that
would outweigh any scientific claims to their bodies?
The one right that is possibly entitled to deceased people is the right to
funerary service. Throughout time the principle pertaining to the preservation
of funeral rights has become quasi-archetypal for modern culture. Some cultures,
such as ancient Greeks, have even gone as far as to claim that these rights
should be held higher than that of life itself. If this were the case, then a
deceased persons right to a funeral would outweighs any scientific claim
associated with the research of his/her body. This would cause the scientists to
not be morally justified in the creation of their program above.
In reality, murdered, lifeless individuals do not possess the right to a
funeral. They, in actuality, do not possess any rights at all. The reason for
this is as follows: in order to have rights you must also have the will to
execute those rights. E.g. in order to have the right to bear firearms you must
be able to choose whether or not you are going to bear arms. Inanimate objects
such as aborted fetal tissue are not able to have rights. Take a painting, an
obvious in animate object, for example. Does it have a right to any thing
connected with it? Throughout the greater part of western civilization paintings
have been given frames. This fact may lead you to believe that paintings do have
the right to a frame. On the contrary, a painting, in order to possess any
right, must be able to behave in accordance with its choices or wills. They must
be able to choose a frame according to their desire in order to maintain the
right to a frame. In other words a painting must contain a Freedom of
Voluntariness in order to retain a right to a frame; however it is absurd that
any inanimate object possess this freedom, as it is a right held only by
persons. It would follow that a dead person, someone who is void of all criteria
pertaining to person-hood, also would not possess this freedom and, therefore,
would not be able to hold rights.
Going to an art gallery, it seems to be absurd that all of the paintings have
elaborate frames. Who or what, then, maintains the will and then the right to be
able to endow artwork with intricate frames? The obvious answer would be the
owners. They have the freedom to act in accordance with a choice to frame the
If it is the owners who have the right to frame a picture then who has the right
to a funeral? Similar to the case with artwork, it would be the owners, but
defining the owner of a once living individual is slightly more difficult than
defining the owner of a piece of art. Artwork has artists that created it and
buyers who retain a definite monetary claim to it; corpses do not. They do,
however, have family and associates (i.e. parents who conceived them and
acquaintances who influenced them). The family and associates would, in fact,
own the post-person because they were at some level responsible for its
existence. It follows that because of this ownership they also possess all
rights associated with its body and what happens to it.
Through abortion all claims to the fetus are dropped. A fetus is a person
without associates. The only people responsible for its existence are its
parents. If the parents decide to get an abortion they would, initially, be in
ownership of the fetus’s body and thus posses all rights associated with it.
Nonetheless, by going through with the abortion they have executed the right to
discard the body and have given up all claims of ownership and, consequently,
all of the body’s future rights. Furthermore, the ownership would not be passed
on to the third party performing the abortion because the abortion is not
involved with giving possession to the abortion clinic but to remove it from the
parents. The fetal tissue would be without any claim of ownership.
All parties, including the third party performing the abortion, desiring to
acquire fetal tissue would contain an equal right to it. The situation would be
analogous to someone disposing of a large sum of money by throwing it onto the
floor of a busy airport. All people in the vicinity with a desire to have the
money would have an equal right to it. The first people to acquire it, then,
would be in correct possession of it. Accordingly, the first persons to acquire
the fetal tissue (generally the persons performing the abortion) would be in
correct possession of it and have the right to control what happens to it.
The possibility for fetal tissue research to be advantageous to humanity gives
researchers not only an equal right to discarded fetuses but, in fact,
precedence to them. The mere speculation that research on dead fetuses could
give insights into birth defects and other diseases such as Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s creates a small possibly that humanity will be improved. That small
possibility would outweigh any other claim to the tissue. The only reason that
party performing the abortion does often end up in possession of fetal tissue is
because they were merely the firsts to acquire it out of the mother’s care.
However, Because fetal tissue researchers have a superior claim to the tissue it
ought to be the case where they are in instant ownership of it.
Researchers are, therefore, morally justified in fetal tissue research. The
fetus possesses no rights, and any person searching for beneficial effects
derived from the fetal tissue would have priority over other claims. In
ownership of the fetal tissue, a researcher would be morally appropriate in
perform research on it because they are executing their will.
One of the most noteworthy reasons to stop fetal tissue research is the
possibility of the creation of a cash market for fetal tissue and organs. The
reasoning behind this is that because there is such a high demand for fetal
tissue people would be willing to pay large amounts of money in order to attain
it. This, in some cases, may promote abortion, which is a form of murder, as
mean for gaining money. Fetal tissue research would indirectly motivate murder
and, thus, be partially responsible for it.
Ideally the answer to this problem is that it is a fallacy to think that the
persons selling the tissue ever have any monetary claim to it. In fact, the
people representing the greater good in the scientific community would be in
right possession of the tissue in the first place and therefore never have the
need to but it.
However, I am able to recognize that in our society this would never be the
case. Perhaps it is because we live in an economically driven society. The
greater good would not be saving lives or gaining knowledge but to make money.
This would render the ideal solution unfeasible because it would justify a
monetary claim to fetal tissue. It would also destroy my positive case for
fetal tissue research because the scientific community would no longer be
representing the greater good.
My only reply to this is that I would like to deal with prescriptive claims not
descriptive claims. I would like to prove fetal tissue research morally
legitimate in comparison to how our society ought to be not with how it really
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