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In 1975 Paul Ramsey published a little book titled The Ethics of Fetal Research. In it he was at pains to distinguish experimental use of the dead fetus or of cadaver fetal tissue from research on the still living fetus (whether newly aborted or still in the womb but intended for abortion). Already in the book’s introduction he made clear that, in his view, “the ordinary canons of medical ethics” could not justify “research using abortuses that are not yet dead.” And then he noted that, in saying this, he had “not said a word” about the use of the dead fetus, fetal tissue, or fetal organs for transplantation: “Questions arising in these connections fall under the heading of our use of dead bodies, or at most our treatment of the newly dead.”

Unfortunately, he continued, “both the foes and the proponents of abortion frequently confuse research using fetal tissue or the dead abortus with research using the human fetus in situ or the previable living ­abortus—the one to escalate its moral outrageousness, the other to praise its great and indispensible [sic] benefits.” Alas, proponents of both views “poison the wells of public-policy formulation in the matter of fetal research.”

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