I’m finding it harder to get back into the rhythm of blogging than I expected so I start today with a two pronged plan. First this short post, which takes off from current events but is a little reflective, and then a second short post on a more topical news story. One way or the other ought to get things moving (for me, I mean.)
The more reflective first: One topic that comes up for discussion fairly frequently is the need for regulation of ART. This can arise in so many settings. You could think about donor-screening, for instance. You could think about number of offspring. You could think about the number of embryos that are transferred in IVF. The list is really quite long.
I suspect that there might be broad agreement that at least some forms of regulation are warranted. I would hope to find serious public discussion about some potentially valuable forms of regulation.
The problem, I’m afraid, is the current tendency of our political discourse to drive towards extremism. Consider, for example, the current discussion about contraceptive coverage in health insurance. I’m appalled at the comments Rush Limbaugh directed at Sandra Fluke. The conversation these generated–whether or not Fluke is a slut (I certainly don’t think so) or whether Limbaugh is a misogynist (which it seems to me he is) may serve a lot of interests, but it isn’t exactly reasoned discourse. It’s amazing to me to watch so many different players try to score points off the drama–Limbaugh obviously must believe his language plays to his listeners, the media believes it draws viewers, liberal causes are using it to rally the troops and so on.
The thing is, I think contraception may actually be less controversial than ART, so there’s every risk that discussions of ART regulation get hijacked in the same way. I think the number of people who would assert that all contraception is wrong is smaller than the number of people who would assert that all ART is wrong. I can understand the reluctance to begin a public conversation in which extremist views (and the rhetoric that accompanies those views) might set the tone.
I cannot help but think about this right now as I watch the whole birth control discussion with horrible fascination. There’s really an urgent need for public discussion of some of these issues and yet it seems so hard to get to anything like intelligent and respectful conversation. Sigh.