Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 29 (1):27-41 (2008)
AbstractCan one consistently deny the permissibility of abortion while endorsing the killing of human embryos for the sake of stem cell research? The question is not trivial; for even if one accepts that abortion is prima facie wrong in all cases, there are significant differences with many of the embryos used for stem cell research from those involved in abortion—most prominently, many have been abandoned in vitro, and appear to have no reasonably likely meaningful future. On these grounds one might think to maintain a strong position against abortion but endorse killing human embryos for the sake of stem cell research and its promising benefits. I will argue, however, that these differences are not decisive. Thus, one who accepts a strong view against abortion is committed to the moral impermissibility of killing human embryos for the sake of stem cell research. I do not argue for the moral standing of either abortion or the killing of embryos for stem cell research; I only argue for the relation between the two. Thus the conclusion is relevant to those with a strong view in favor of the permissibility of killing embryos for the sake of research as much as for those who may strongly oppose abortion; neither can consider their position in isolation from the other.
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