Tuesday, September 22, 2015
World Magazine this week has an article provocatively titled: Life after death: Where vaccines saving millions of lives are derived from the tissue of aborted babies, is it ethical to use them? Here's the link to the online article.
This is an issue that I knew absolutely nothing about until it was brought to my attention about a year ago. I tried to find out more information online, but sometimes good information is hard to find! And this, it seems to me, is an important matter to think about, and one that may crop up more and more in the future. Can a Christian, in good conscience, use such vaccines?
I imagine most people are like me and never realize what goes into the making of a vaccine and where they come from. This article does a good job in laying out the history is a pretty short space. I appreciated that. It also laid out the case that such vaccines can also be manufactured by using animal cell lines - the cell lines of aborted babies are not essential. And this, the article concludes, is the direction we should be going. I concur.
Where I was disappointed was in the answer to the question posed in the title: Is is ethical to use them? Actually, I was disappointed that there really wasn't an answer given or any thought process presented to think through the issue. What was cited were opinions put out by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA), whose conclusion were (1.) that "we should not risk the lives of our children [now] in order to avoid a remote connection that is tangentially related to an evil act" (Baptists); (2.) it is "permissible . . . to use such vaccines "on a temporary basis" if no animal-based alternatives [are] available" (Vatican); and (3.) since the manufacturing of such vaccines does not require ongoing abortions, it's permissible for Christian to use them until alternatives are available" (CMDA).
It's nice to have such opinions to salve the consciences of Christians who may be struck by guilt at having received themselves or had these vaccines given to their children. However, two problems exist here: What was the reasoning used to come to such conclusions? The Baptist answer seems to be pragmatic, the Vatican answer practical, and the CMDA's utilitarian. I would like to know more, especially to think through such problems - and related ones - that will certainly arise in the future, as medical technology grows and becomes able to do many more things. I wish the article would have provided some of that instead of just conclusions, though I understand their space was probably greatly limited. The other problem that exists is a really practical one: how many doctors or nurses are going to know where their vaccines come from and how they were manufactured? I would guess very, very few. So what is a Christian to do in that case?
Part of the problem of being a pastor in the 21st century is trying to stay current on so many ethical issues facing us in our world today. There simply isn't enough time or energy to read up on everything - or even to know about all the dilemmas out there. Which makes it all the more important to know that we live under grace. That we live in the forgiveness earned by Jesus on the cross for us, and that is true for sins of ignorance, sins of weakness, sins committed as the lesser of two evils - all sins. My eternal life does not depend on my doing everything right, but because Jesus did everything right, and then died for my sins and gave me His perfection. That's not a free pass to sin or not care about such matters, but it is the salve this pastor's conscience needs! And it's true for you too.