Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

I wasn’t going to run with this because bioethicist Jacob M. Appel seems to be following the same business model to career success as Julian Savulescu and others: stake out the most wild and radical positions conceivable and you are sure to get attention—and perhaps big speaking fees—as pro-infanticide Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer’s $20,000 per speech fee illustrates.

But this fetal farming boost appeared in the most influential blog on the left, the Huffington Post , which has millions of readers. And it is pernicious in the extreme. From Appel’s column :

Opponents of reproductive choice will object to such a market on the grounds that it will increase the number of abortions—which will indeed be the logical result. However, such a market might also bring solace to women who have already decided upon abortion, but desire that some additional social good come from the procedure. Like the families of accident victims who donate the organs of their loved ones, these women could well find their decisions fortified by the public benefit that they generate. An additional economic incentive would further assuage any doubts, and might even make the procedure more palatable to otherwise equivocal spouses or partners.

And catch this conclusion:
Someday, if we are fortunate, scientific research may make possible farms of artificial “wombs” breeding fetuses for their organs — or even the “miracle” of men raising fetuses in their abdomens. That day remains far off. However, the prospect of fetal-adult organ transplantation is a much more realistic near-term possibility. A market in such organs might benefit both society and the women who choose to take advantage of it.

Again, I think it would be a mistake to react to every Appel column because that would support his business model. But that the Huffington Post considers this a legitimate and acceptable argument to run on its site—it would never countenance a racist utilitarian rant—shows precisely the dark place where the utilitarian left is more than happy to go. And it reminds me of the wisdom of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who once wrote:

Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional.

That was true when he wrote those words for Commentary in 1988. It was more true when I used this quote in Culture of Death in 2001. And it is true in exclamation points today.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles