John McCain and the Implications of Human Rights for Fertilized Eggs
During the Christian entrepreneurial evangelist pastor Rick Warren’s religious interrogation of John McCain on Saturday August 16, he made the following challenge (my transcription):
Rick Warren: 40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. Some people who, people who believe that life begins at conception, would say that’s a Holocaust for many people. At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?
John McCain: At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment. That’s my commitment to you.
Rick Warren: Ha ha. Okay. We don’t have to go longer on that one. Ha ha.
Warren’s relief was palpable, but ours should not be. Rick Warren was looking for an easy, simple answer, but McCain’s answer was neither easy nor simple in its implications for Americans.
Rick Warren: At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?
John McCain: At the moment of conception.
John McCain isn’t just whistling Dixie here. He’s telling you outright what his pro-life policies as president will entail. He’s telling you that as president, he will pursue policies consonant with the notion that human rights are granted at the moment of conception. Well, what are “human rights?” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted with full participation of the United States and passed by the United Nations General Assembly with the United States voting yes and only the Soviet bloc and Saudi Arabia voting against, commits member nations of the UN to:
strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the foundation of international human rights law, to which the United States is committed through a number of ratified covenants. It identifies these human rights among others:
Article 3. “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Article 6. “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
Article 7. “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
Article 8. “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”
These rights are roughly paralleled in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
If these rights apply “at the moment of conception,” what does that mean?
It means that the “right to life, liberty and security of person” is violated by intra-uterine devices (IUDs), contraceptions that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. These fertilized eggs, after all, would have the “right to life, liberty and security of person”! In a John McCain presidency, IUDs would be illegal. Using an IUD would be tantamount to murder.
It means that the “right to life, liberty and security of person” is violated by use of Plan B, the morning after pill. Plan B works by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. That is a violation of human rights if human rights apply “at the moment of conception.” Clearly, John McCain intends to outlaw the morning after pill.
It means that the “right to life, liberty and security of person” is violated by use of regular birth control pills, which some doctors assert may prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs into the uterine wall. That’s murder, murder, murder if John McCain gets his way. If John McCain is president, he will outlaw the birth control pill.
In a John McCain presidency, even using the rhythm method would be against the law. As Dr. Luc Bovens points out in an article in the British Medical Journal, the rhythm method of birth control works by limiting sexual intercourse to the times when a successful pregnancy is less likely to be achieved. The reason successful pregnancies are less likely to be achieved during some of periods of the estrus cycle (periods deemed OK by proponents of the rhythm method) is that old eggs are degraded by their long trip through the fallopian tubes and therefore less likely when fertilized to implant in the uterine wall. The intentional use of the rhythm method is murder — the creation of life knowing that it will be destroyed. Since John McCain has declared such life has full human rights, and since John McCain has declared his intention to implement government policies with those new human rights in mind, we can rest assured that John McCain will make the use of the rhythm method against the law.
If John McCain is elected president, either in vitro fertility clinics will be outlawed or women will be forced into mandatory pregnancies. These clinics give otherwise infertile couples children, that is to be sure. But they do so by fertilizing multiple eggs, leading to embryos that under a McCain presidency will have human rights. Currently, in vitro fertility clinics throw those embryos away. If these embryos have human rights, then such an act will be illegal. The only acceptable actions for a President McCain who means what he says and keeps his promises will be 1) to make in vitro fertilization clinics illegal, 2) to force women to carry all of their embryos generated in in vitro fertilization to term as children, resulting in huge increases in family size, or 3) to force women to carry other women’s embryos to term as children, violating the rights of women in order to save the lives of these “babies,” these beings that John McCain has given human rights. Even the fundamentalist Christian women who say that these embryos have full human rights, who call them “babies,” are not lining up to bring them to birth using their own wombs. Expect that to change under a McCain administration. John McCain will probably have to deploy the National Guard to ensure that women fulfill their new duties as forced incubators, but hey, those embryos have human rights too.
Yes, the national guard, or perhaps police officers if most everyone just goes along quietly, will have to be deployed. Laws are laws and must be followed. And remember, human rights must be enforced through courts or other tribunals, which include the use of force to back them up.
The police or national guard will also have to be deployed to recover naturally threatened embryos. according to testimony before President Bush’s own Bioethics Panel, 60 to 80 percent of human conceptions fail to implant or otherwise fail in pregnancy, and 40 to 50 percent of those failed conceptions “did not contain defects or abnormalities, could have been born… and become babies.” They have full human rights, which include the “right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Now, there are approximately 4 million births in the United States each year. To be conservative, let’s assume that only 60 percent (not the higher 80 percent estimate) of conceptions fail to come to term. Those 4 million births therefore represent 40 percent of conceptions. That in turn means there are 6 million conceptions which fail to come to term each year. Now, to be conservative again, let’s assume that only 40 percent (not the higher 50 percent estimate) of those failed conceptions “did not contain defects or abnormalities, could have been born… and become babies.” This means that there are approximately 2,400,000 conceptions each year resulting in embryos that “could have been born… and become babies” but did not.
If you follow this logic to its end, expect John McCain to order a program of search and rescue for those 2,400,000 little embryos, embryos with full human rights deserving full protection of their government. We don’t flinch at shoveling out government resources to find missing 8 year olds lost in the Okeefenokee Swamp, do we? Then we shouldn’t flinch at shoveling out government resources to search every sexually-active woman’s body to save these little human lives, should we? A woman’s home can be searched for an endangered baby, so why not her womb? Measures must be taken: it’s a Holocaust, as Rick Warren reminds us, a Holocaust! Well, first we’ll need an accurate accounting of every woman’s sexual activity so that we know where those little lost embryos might be (the other choice is to search every American woman between the onset of puberty and the onset of menopause). Then, we’ll need to have daily blood analysis in the lab to measure changes in gonadotrophins, so that we can tell when a pregnancy begins and when a failure of that pregnancy might be commencing. Then we’ll need doctors at the ready to intervene with a thorough search of a woman’s body cavity so that the little kiddo can be found and reimplanted.
I could continue. There are census counts to be considered, for instance, and then there is the matter of giving these fertilized embryos their social security cards. Equal protection under the law, don’t you know! But I think you get the point. When John McCain says that human rights apply “at the moment of conception,” there are a number of consequences that follow… consequences that most Americans would wish to avoid. No wonder McCain’s ally Rick Warren wanted so desperately, and so quickly, to move on to the next subject.