Friday, November 10th, 2006

I am trying out a polling service. My first poll is just for fun.

Do you ever respond to polls?
Free polls from

The New York Times reports (free registration required) that New York City is considering allowing people born in NYC to change the sex on their birth certificate, even without undergoing sex-change surgery.

Unbelievable, and yet in our postmodern times it is very believable. In a world where a pregnant mother can define whether her unborn baby is valuable and worthy of life, or invaluable and able to be killed, and in a world where morals are defined by each individual, it is not surprising that objective facts of biological reality can be redefined by mere self-determination as well. We are living in very confused times.

Thank you Max for being the first to bring this to my attention.

Australia’s Senate narrowly approved a bill Tuesday legalizing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. It still has to pass their House of Representatives before it becomes law, but it is fully expected to pass. The law would require that the cloned embryos be destroyed within 14 days of creation, and forbids inserting them into a woman’s womb for gestation.

What I find interesting is that it was only four years ago that Australia passed legislation allowing the use of “leftover embryos” for embryonic stem cell research. Our legislature passed a similar law this year (but it was vetoed by President Bush). During the debate we were assured that all Congress wanted was the ability to use leftover embryos, not clone embryos. I wouldn’t doubt that Australia said the same thing, but the fact of the matter is that biotechnology, when unchecked by morality, is a slippery slope. We have already seen biotech slide down the slope in Australia and other countries. In fact, we’re even seeing it in America. California, Missouri, and New Jersey have all passed laws allowing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. Don’t believe them when they say “we’ll only do X, not Y,” for tomorrow they will be wanting to do Y. Yesterday they didn’t want to clone embryos for research, today they do. Today they are saying they don’t want to gestate clones to birth, but already some scientists are saying that wouldn’t be so bad after all. As it’s been said, what was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and commonplace tomorrow.

Here’s my brief report on Tuesday’s election. I am limiting my comments to morals legislation.

Eight states had ballot initiatives pertaining to same-sex marriage: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. All but Arizona approved them (making it the first time the people have ever voted the idea down). Each measure was a little different. Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Arizona’s proposals outlawed domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage. South Carolina and Tennessee only outlawed same-sex marriage.

South Dakota had a ballot initiative that would have prohibited abortion except for in cases to preserve the mother’s life. It failed 56/44.

California and Oregon had initiatives that would require parental notification for an abortion. Both failed.

Missouri had an initiative that would legalize cloning for destructive embryonic research. It passed 51/49.

Our worldview prevailed on the same-sex union issue, but lost on the abortion issue and on the cloning issue (we lost on the cloning issue, not because people support cloning, but because the proponents of the bill deceptively passed it off as a cloning ban just like they did in CA). A couple of those losses could have been prevented, however. Take South Dakota’s abortion ban. Polls showed that approximately the same percentage of people who said no to the measure would have voted yes if an exception was made for cases of rape and incest. Or take Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban. Had the proposal been limited to banning same-sex marriage—and not included all forms of unions such as civil unions and domestic partnerships—it probably would have passed.

What should this tell us? For one, it should tell us that sometimes the best approach to getting legislation passed is the incremental approach. Poll after poll shows that more people oppose just same-sex marriage than do those who oppose same-sex marriage and civil unions/domestic partnerships. Poll after poll shows that more people oppose abortions except in cases of rape and incest than those who oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest. While we may be persuaded that abortion in cases of rape and incest is just as evil as all other elective abortions, and while we may be persuaded that there is little difference between recognizing same-sex civil unions and recognizing same-sex marriage, it’s best to get a bill passed that prohibits some evil than it is to propose a bill prohibiting all evil and have it fail. In the former case no babies are saved, while in the latter case many will be.

This was the approach to slavery as well. In Englad, William Wilberforce fought for years, chipping away at the practice of slavery bit by bit until finally the whole edifice came down. While in several states the all-or-nothing approached worked, in Arizona and South Dakota it did not. Those states would have done well to tackle the issue slowly if polls showed people would not accept it in whole, than to shove a bite down the voters throat that was too much for them to chew at once.

For further reading on the wisdom of the incremental approach to morals legislation see and