In the past few days, the news of genetically-edited babies produced by a Chinese scientist has gone viral. It has received almost universal denunciation, essentially on the grounds that it is the application of a technology with unpredictable risks, without rigorous assessment, used irresponsibly on human beings, which may lead to devastating results.
Obviously the condemnation is justified. But the criticism will sooner or later disappear, as the technology involved is further enhanced and becomes more mature. The content of people’s criticism shows that they are not against genetically editing babies, but against the fact that it is not carefully regulated.
For Christians, it is inadequate to think only along these lines. In secular ethics, the goal is to seek the “public consensus”, based on the interest of the majority. In Christian ethics, however, we seek a sanctified life. As was stated in Leviticus 19, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
The following three verses are what God has to say about human life.
First Verse: The Nature of Man
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
To consider the nature of the life of man, we have to go back to where humans began.
In Genesis 1, God created the universe in 6 days. At the end of each day, God affirmed His creation, saying, “God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25) But on the sixth day, God said “it was very good,” because he had created man on that day.
In God’s eyes, why was the creation of man “very good”, better than what were created in the previous five days? (In the eyes of man, the things created in the first five days often seem better than what was created on the sixth day!)
God’s creation on the sixth day is special, because human are created in the image of God.
Although the Bible is not very explicit about what the “image of God” is, there are at least two levels of meanings:
1）Humans have a special relationship with God.
In all of creation, only man is made in the image of God, and a special relation exists between man and God, which is not found in other creatures.
2）Humans reflect some of God’s attributes.
Since humans are made in God’s image, there are naturally some similarities. A person’s essence can reflect certain attributes of God. As the Lord said in Leviticus 19: “Be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” In the Gospel, Jesus also said: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)
Humans are not God, and will never be God, but we reflect God’s attributes. Besides showing us the essence of our life, it should direct us in making ethical judgments. Are these scientific experiments (intended to make humanity “perfect”) compatible with the Biblical teaching to “be perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect”?
Second Verse: What is the Origin of Man’s Value?
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)
After the Flood, God commanded Noah not to kill. God’s reasoning was not based on public interest considerations, but on man’s nature. This verse explicitly states that the biggest problem with killing humans is that they have the image of God. In other words, whoever kills is the enemy of the Lord. God sees humans as valuable not because of what they have—external possessions—but because of what they are.
Behind the experiment to genetically edit human embryos, there is a set of criteria that judges human value by what a person has. Screening human genes means screening humans. And very often, “screening” simply means killing—eradicating those who “have no value” according to genetic-screening criteria.
When screening is aimed at those who are already born, it means an extermination (under “racial hygiene laws”) as in Hitler’s genocide. When screening is aimed at those who are in the womb, it means fetal sex identification, and the “Family Planning Policy”. And when screening happens before that–with embryos in IVF labs–it is called “genome editing”.
The concentration camp at Landsberg am Lech, 1944
Third Verse: How to Treat the Smallest Human Beings
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Mat 25:40)
Among today’s assisted reproductive technologies, a “test-tube baby” is the closest thing to a genetically-edited baby. The only difference is what is being screened—genes or babies. “Test-tube baby” (IVF) technology is now quite mature. Let’s talk about the typical IVF process.
Mature eggs and sperms are collected from a couple, and then used for multiple fertilisations in a laboratory. Then, one or more of the fertilized eggs (embryos) are implanted in the woman’s uterus, followed by a period of observation. After the embryos grow, and the parents decide how many they want, the unwanted embryos are destroyed.
In a typical IVF case, there might be 5 embryos that have been fertilized. If the parents want 1 child, then 2 embryos will be implanted. At least 1 of the embryos will be miscarried, or aborted. Then, there will be 3 leftover embryos, which will be frozen in the hospital. And so, there are now many forgotten or abandoned embryos in hospitals.
There are no longer many people who denounce this “safely regulated” technology. But as Christians, who know the Lord of life, there are some things to consider. Some Christians who want their own biological children will choose to employ “test-tube baby” technology to realize their wish. They will only implant one fertilized egg, and will not opt for genetic screening (i.e. ” abortion of fetus with genetic abnormalities”). If their attempt at IVF fails, they will try again.
There are some Christians who put their frozen eggs in the hospital when they were still non-believers. After coming to understand the Bible’s teaching on human life, they do not want to abandon these yet-to-be-born humans. They choose to continue to grow the remaining fertilized eggs.
There are also Christians who do not continue the IVF process, but want to honor the humanity of their embryos. Some people will even have a burial ceremony.
Some other Christians, learning the example set by God, choose to adopt orphans and raise them as their own children. They bring the orphans into their homes, based on a set of values entirely different from people who simply abandon their embryos in the IVF clinic.
Postscript: Pandora’s Box?
After last week’s news story, many people talk about a “Pandora’s Box” that could be opened. But in fact, we shouldn’t be surprised, because there are already so many Pandora’s Boxes that have been opened—and many have never been closed.
In our generation, the greatest cause of death is abortion.
In the past, people abandoned their children after they were born. Today, technology allows the abandonment to be performed during pregnancy. Every year, 50 million healthy fetuses—with no need to be genetically modified, and who are carrying no risks—are directly killed. They are torn into pieces on operating tables, before being incinerated and dumped in landfills as garbage (or tossed in the trash or sewer).
Comparatively speaking, is it really that evil that those Chinese twin girls were genetically edited? If killing a fetus is such a trivial matter, how serious can it be to alter an embryo’s genes?
Conversely, if it is really unethical to experiment on an embryo in a laboratory, how should we assess killing a baby on a hospital operating table?
Given that Christians in China generally keep their mouths shut about abortion, our criticism against genome editing is like a street-sleeper who is given a hotel room, and suddenly starts complaining that it isn’t clean.
If we cannot see the sins that are already happening all around us through the lens of man’s true nature—which is the only way we can build a line of defence for human life—then I’m afraid that people are only shocked about genetically edited babies because it’s the first time they’ve heard about it. If Christians remain silent about abortion now, the next generation of Christians will readily accept genetic editing.
Do you truly value life? Do you really see that man is “made in the image of God”? Confronted by well over 10 million cases of abortion each year, do you want to do something? You’re welcome to join us on WeChat by using the QR Code below.
Since 1983, the IPPF has cooperated closely with China and helped to execute its Family Planning Policy, by whatever means necessary.
Every year since 1959, the United Nations has observed Universal Children’s Day on November 20, when they signed the “Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
But it was 94 years ago–on 26 September 1924–that the League of Nations approved its predecessor, the “Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child”.
The 1924 document was the first international treaty that specifically discussed the idea of children’s rights. The Geneva Declaration stated that:
- The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
- The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.
- The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
- The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
- The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
These ideas are simple and obvious to us today. But it wasn’t always that way. It took the incredible work and sacrifice of children’s rights activists to arrive at the point where we can take it for granted that children have these basic rights.
A major inspiration for this document was Janusz Korczak, known as the “father of children’s rights”. He spent decades promoting children’s rights. Although he didn’t write it, he was the first to promote the idea, and was invited to sign the original document in light of his contribution.
During World War II, he had many chances to avoid arrest by the Nazis, but he refused to abandon the children he was caring for. In 1942, his life ended in the Treblinka concentration camp, along with the lives of 200 children from his orphanage.
The document he inspired has been historically significant since the endorsement of the League of Nations General Assembly. After the League of Nations was succeeded by the United Nations, the Declaration was re-written to become the “Convention on the Rights of the Child“. And since 20 November 1989, this Convention has been signed and ratified by 193 nations. It is the most widely adopted human rights treaty in history.
And of course it is! Who doesn’t love children? Who doesn’t want children to succeed and thrive? And regardless, even if some people care less than others, anybody who isn’t willing to sign the document will look really bad.
So, every member of the United Nations signed the Convention. And in addition to signing it, every UN member eventually ratified it–except for the United State of America. The reasons given by America revolve around a fear of international control of its domestic policy.
But every nation has signed the document, and has said they will follow the rules of the Convention. There were also other nations who had concerns about international meddling in their domestic policy. Ultimately, though, they knew they would lose face if they didn’t sign.
It seems like a no-brainer for a nation to sign a treaty recognising children’s rights. But different nations have different values. For example, several nations who promote Sharia law objected to the Convention’s provision regarding a child’s freedom of religion, and said their domestic law came first. But they still signed the treaty. Several European nations objected to the signatures of nations governed by Sharia law. But they all still signed it. Israel and Canada objected to the fact that Palestine signed it, since it is not a UN member state. But Israel and Canada still signed it. And perhaps most disturbingly, China stated that they wouldn’t follow any provision of the Convention that would contradict China’s Family Planning Policy.
Presumably, China did not want the United Nations bothering them about:
1) the babies who are taken away from parents who have “too many” children,
2) withholding medical care from newborn babies who were supposed to be aborted, or
3) withholding health care and education from the millions of children without birth certificates.
Surprisingly, a few of the world’s most oppressive nations, including North Korea and Myanmar, did not express any reservations when they signed the Convention. Clearly though, children in these countries are not permitted to exercise many of their rights.
This means that the United Nations is actually okay with children lacking certain freedoms, as long as member nations are generally willing to recognize that they should care about children’s rights. This is bad, but it’s progress. Maybe.
All in all, the Convention inspires more than mere lip service–but not much more. And despite flagrant violations, the UN hasn’t rejected any of its signatories.
For example, the UN has said they are satisfied with China’s 2005 law to make sex-selective abortion illegal (which was killing literally millions of unborn girls every year, precisely because they were girls). But the UN is still “concerned” about how China’s Family Planning Policy encourages forced abortion and sex-selective abortion, and how local officials take illegally born children from their parents and place them in orphanages for adoption or forced labor. (See the UN report about China’s violations against children’s rights here, and China’s responses here.)
[The Convention] is particularly concerned about reports that some family planning officials coerce parents to give up their children born in excess of their parents’ birth quotas, and sell and transfer children into the care of local orphanages for domestic or international adoption or forced labor.
Obviously, not every nation cares about the rights of children in the same way. But this document does make a difference. What would the situation of the world’s children be without a treaty like this? This global declaration is important because it is a way to hold nations publicly accountable for their treatment of the weakest and most defenseless members of society. (Of course, they could be doing a better job on accountability.)
94 years ago today, Janusz Korczak’s inspiration for a declaration of children’s rights was put on paper and signed by the League of Nations. And he lived out this declaration in a concrete way, living and dying in solidarity with otherwise forgotten children. Even in very dark times and places, every child is worth remembering, defending, and celebrating.
A pro-life worker in England shares her heart-breaking experiences in the article “Working with women who want abortions has taught me a lot about life“.
One woman I encountered spent the majority of the consultation sobbing, begging me to tell her boyfriend that she was not eligible for an abortion. She desperately wanted to keep her baby, but he had decided that she wasn’t going to.
Despite being married to someone else, he was in control of her finances, her housing and her visa. She was completely dependent on him and he was physically and emotionally abusive. I told him that she was not eligible for an abortion so he grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the building.
The fact that BPAS performed an abortion on her later the same day is disgusting. In no way was her crisis solved by that abortion. Her child was forcibly removed against her will (even if she signed a consent form) because a man threatened the destruction of her life as she knew it.
Silent complicity with abusive boyfriends is not what feminism has fought for.
The last sentence of her article is also a succinct summary of her work: “Stop the crisis, not the pregnancy.”
I once had a job interview at a tutorial centre in North Point. I felt so ridiculously big inside the centre’s rooms, because they were designed for very small children.
Most students were 2 or 3, but there were also classes for young babies.
If I remember correctly, the centre had lessons available for students as young as 6 months.
That’s 6 months after conception.
I’ve tried to find out more about prenatal language classes, but there isn’t much information online. Understandably, the practice never became mainstream.
The New York Times article “Language Lessons Start in the Womb” explains how we know that language skills develop in the womb. But it also encourages parents not to worry about prenatal language lessons.
“The basic message to parents is don’t get too wrapped around the axle about preparing your extremely young infant for language,” Dr. Moon said. “Just do those things that are really natural and easy.”
People are willing to make very great sacrifices to help their children succeed in life. And this is especially true in the intensely competitive atmosphere of East Asia. Many parents pay for the best tutors, hire a nanny to make sure their children get to all their after-school lessons on time, and even go into debt to put their children into the best schools. Some parents do all these things before their child has even begun primary school! Parents pay huge sums of money to help their child survive the cut-throat competition that’s involved in getting into a highly-ranked kindergarten.
From the pro-life perspective, this brings up a question of justice. How can it be that so much time, effort, and money is spent on the well-being and success of young children, at the same time that so many unborn children’s lives are snuffed out before birth? Children’s lives are more important than the ranking of the kindergarten they will attend. But that’s not how society behaves. Why not? And how can we change this?
A large UK study in 2014 examined over 2500 patients who received a diagnosis of miscarriage. Based on this study, the UK’s medical system decided to tell women that they should wait at least 7 to 14 days before any medical procedure to evacuate the miscarried fetus. This is because approximately 3% of miscarriage diagnoses are wrong!
Researchers took great care with their data and with how they presented it. But practically, the result is very difficult for women with a diagnosis of miscarriage. It means that, after they are told they have miscarried, they need to wait 1 or 2 weeks, because of a tiny hope that their child is still alive. If they wait, there is roughly a 97% chance that the child is dead. If they don’t wait, they will risk aborting their child.
Miscarriage is terrible. The whole experience is terrible. And while this new research is important, it actually makes miscarriage even more difficult for the great majority of people.
The UK’s new policy will extend the grieving process for many people, which is horribly frustrating. But amidst the profound grief, the one positive thing to come out of this study is that it will save many lives who would have been accidentally aborted.
The results of the study are here: https://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4579
It’s equally inspiring and terrifying. And I promise, it’s much more exciting than it sounds.
When Steve Silberman started writing Neurotribes, many people thought it was because he had an autistic relative. But no…he didn’t have any personal investment in the plight of autistic people.
Rather, he is a professional medical writer. And when he researched autism, he saw one of the most fascinating–and misunderstood–stories in medical history. And he decided that the story deserved to be told accurately.
I got three main points from the book:
1) Autism was never a rare condition.
2) Autism is not caused by vaccines, or by bad parents.
3) Autistic people offer valuable ways of looking at the world, and have contributed in world-changing ways to technology, scientific research, and the arts.
To clarify, the book is not primarily about the alleged connection between vaccines and autism. But in understanding the history of autism research, it will become clear why so many people in the UK and USA were convinced that vaccines caused autism.
The first successful autism researcher was Hans Asperger. He had a tremendous program in Vienna, Austria, that enabled children with autism to lead much happier lives.
Despite Asperger’s extraordinary efforts to save these children from the Nazis, Asperger’s program for autistic children was eventually shut down. These children were used in medical experimentation as guinea pigs for the Aktion T4 program. They were the first among hundreds of thousands of disabled people used–and then killed–by Nazi scientists.
Asperger’s research was destroyed, and his legacy was ruined. Today, many still accuse him of being a Nazi supporter, despite his heroic work to defend autistic children.
Tragically, Asperger’s work was ignored, and was followed by several decades of misguided and harmful ideas related to autism research.
The main purpose of the book is to show how harmful this research has been to autistic people and their families. But the book also introduces dozens of autistic people, whose scientific, technological, and artistic contributions have changed the world.
There’s no need to terminate the lives of autistic people. Sadly, vast resources have been expended on research that doesn’t respect them as valuable members of society. This includes prenatal testing for autism, which was developed primarily in order to prevent them from being born.
There’s no need to justify or apologize for their differences. Regardless of disabilities–or of different abilities–we are all human, and make each other’s lives richer, not poorer.
It’s 560 pages, but you won’t lose interest listening to the incredible stories. But, pro tip, it’s a lot easier to listen to it on Audible: NeuroTribes The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.
I don’t watch many movies. But I was at the hospital yesterday for an appointment, and I had a sudden urge to watch “Finding Nemo”.
I’d watched it 12 or 15 years ago. I had forgotten the beginning of the movie, where the mother and children are killed by a barracuda. The father survives, along with one child–Nemo–who hasn’t hatched yet. Nemo grows up with a disabled fin, and he and his over-protective father eventually have many adventures together.
I’ll admit–I cried. It’s a beautiful story!
But, I also cried because I was thinking of the thousands of unborn children who are needlessly killed in China every hour of every day.
But this isn’t a movie review. I’m writing this article to discuss Down Syndrome testing in Hong Kong. Honestly, this article could have been three times longer, but I’m trying to keep the focus on Hong Kong (and I’ll try not to get side-tracked talking about England, America, China, or anyone else that has helped Hong Kong become a global leader in prenatal diagnostic research).
I’ll start by saying that Hong Kong is not a very “pro-abortion” society. On one hand, they do encourage small families, as all big cities do. And they do heavily promote contraception. But, they do not strongly promote abortion in most cases.
Unlike America, Canada, and the rest of China, Hong Kong does not allow abortion “on demand”. In practice, Hong Kong doctors do abortions until 12 weeks (for a broad array of medical reasons). And they do abortions until 24 weeks (for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality). The abortion rate in Hong Kong is similar to the rate in most countries.
In the rest of China, the abortion rates are still very high. And more often than not, the legal, social, and medical policies actively encourage or require abortion.
If Chinese doctors or ultrasound technicians believe there is even a small chance that a child will be disabled, they encourage the parents to abort the pregnancy. And, Chinese people have a high regard for medical professionals. So when a doctor or x-ray technician suggests abortion, it’s enough to make many mothers feel they have no choice.
I’m going out of my way to say: Hong Kong is not the worst place in the world regarding abortion. But, when it comes to disabled children–especially preborn children with Down Syndrome–Hong Kong has helped lead the way in getting rid of them.
Women in Hong Kong who are at risk of giving birth to a child with disabilities are softly encouraged to abort. For women in the rest of China, the choice is often made for them.
So, let’s go back to my experience yesterday at Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong. I finished watching the beginning of Finding Nemo, and was honestly very moved. But later, when I was preparing to leave the hospital, I learned some surprising information.
As a matter of policy, Hong Kong hospitals schedule many women to be screened for Down Syndrome, before any prenatal care begins.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority website says: “The screening test is absolutely voluntary.” But in general, women are not told that it is voluntary, unless they ask. They are simply given a date, and given instructions for how to prepare for the screening test.
To clarify–I’m not opposed to prenatal testing. I think it’s a great idea to know about your children’s health risks before birth, so that you can prepare to give them appropriate care.
But the reason that the test was created was not to care for children with Down Syndrome, but to prevent them from being born. Practically speaking, Hong Kong–and all of China–has a “search and destroy” policy for Down Syndrome.
Of course, to be fair–in Hong Kong, parents are allowed to give birth, and their decision is respected. But the feeling is obvious–Down Syndrome children are not welcome in Hong Kong society.
In the rest of China, there is little or no respect for parents’ wishes.
Screening and testing for Down Syndrome has been encouraged for many years. But the most advanced technique for Down Syndrome testing was developed in Hong Kong, by Dr. Dennis Lo. He has many very impressive accomplishments in medical research. But his biggest claim to fame is for making a non-invasive test that is extremely accurate in detecting fetal abnormalities.
The test is used primarily to find fetuses with Down Syndrome before they are born. The reality is, this is nearly always done in order to find them, and abort them. This means that Dr. Lo has created the world’s most advanced “search and destroy” method for getting rid of those with Down Syndrome.
Among many other international awards, he received the Future Science Prize, which is China’s version of the Nobel Prize. The award was specifically related to this test, which has been used extensively in China, to prevent babies with Down Syndrome from being born.
Also, Dr. Dennis Lo is the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute for Health Sciences, which is at Prince of Wales Hospital. This is the hospital where I now receive treatment, and where I was watching Finding Nemo yesterday.
I’m sure that Dr. Dennis Lo believes that he’s doing something good for the world. But in practice, he is helping ensure that Chinese society is built on violence against the innocent. That is not a path towards a better and more just future.
Can you join? You can find more information about Ray of Hope at rayofhopetaiwan.org.tw.
I recently wrote about how Christians should avoid cooperating with abortion.
There are many reasons that people decide to abort a pregnancy. But the purpose of the abortion itself is (almost always) to kill the fetus.
Pro-life people believe that a fetus is already a member of the human community, with inherent dignity. We cannot always keep a fetus from dying, and we cannot always save his or her life. But it is always wrong to intentionally kill him or her.
Of course, once you accept the premise that the unborn child is a person, it naturally follows that you see abortion as the world’s greatest injustice. And you don’t want to support it or cooperate with it in any way!
But, this can be more complicated than it sounds.
Let’s change the subject for a moment, to discuss human trafficking. If you study the extent of slave labour in global supply chains, you’ll see that there is no practical way right now to avoid ALL cooperation with human trafficking.
This could change! (See #stopmodernslavery to learn how.) But right now, the world we live in tolerates human trafficking as part of life.
The only viable option for pro-life people is to continue to change the culture, and then to work through the legal system when victory is possible.
Let’s go back to the question of cooperation. Right now, there is no way to avoid ALL cooperation with abortion. We are surrounded by governments, laws, corporations, systems, and societies that support abortion. (Perhaps you could live on an island by yourself, but I don’t recommend that.)
It’s a sad reality, but Christians can’t avoid cooperating with abortion. Here’s an example:
Christians pay taxes, but many governments give money that goes towards abortion (e.g. the IPPF affiliates in Hong Kong and in America receive roughly 1/3 of their funding from the government. These funds are fungible, which means the government is helping to pay for abortions.)
Sadly, this means that the Christian tax-payer is cooperating with abortion. The cooperation is small, remote, and indirect. But it’s also terrible, and typically inescapable.
Of course, the tax-payer is not morally responsible for the abortion. And, the Christian who stops paying taxes could not stop abortions this way. And any potential benefit of not paying taxes would be outweighed by the consequences.
So, what do we do?
It is my hope that Christians will do what they can do, in order to work for an end to abortion. And I pray that all Christians will choose not to directly or intentionally cooperate with abortion.
This is not an easy topic, but if you want to think about it more, see the chart below.
This flowchart is about how to discern questions on cooperating with evil. It’s from epicpew.com, and is written for Catholics. But I think it’s also useful for Protestants (e.g. you can start by asking: “Does the Bible forbid cooperating with this action?”), and also for anybody interested in these questions.
The featured image for this post includes a quote from Gandhi: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good”. We could discuss when it is reasonable to try to peacefully protest and break the law, like Gandhi did, when there is no other way to stop injustice.
But we do not live in Gandhi’s India. The legal system in most countries is not completely broken or corrupt, and it is possible to change the laws. Sadly, there are not enough people who care enough to change them.
Practically, the first priority of the pro-life movement is not to change the laws, but to work locally to end abortion and other attacks on human life. And in fact, this is what the majority of pro-life efforts and funding are invested in.
Finally, the phrase “change the culture” does not mean “hope things get better someday”. It means doing practical work–which might include persuading business owners not to cooperate with abortion. This happened recently with a California waste disposal company that was processing the remains of dead fetuses at 20 abortion centres. The CEO was persuaded to end his contracts with those centres. If local business leaders do not cooperate with abortion, then local doctors cannot do abortions.
This post is also available in: 繁體中文