“Inspiration Porn” Objectifies People With Disabilities

ChelseaDisabledLeave a Comment

We’ve all read and shared the stories: a basketball coach “lets” the disabled team manager dress out and participate in the final seconds of the last game of the season, a senior with Down syndrome is elected prom queen, etc… I’ve even been known to share a few, myself, but lately they’ve been making me increasingly uncomfortable — not the situations, themselves, but the media’s reporting on them.

On the air with Mike Allen this week we talked about one specific example of “inspiration porn” that I personally identified with and what I thought was wrong not just with the media hype, but also with that particular situation. Click the play button below to listen:

(if embed does not work, here is a direct link to the audio)

i can-small.pngThis article, however, does a great job articulating what is wrong with the media’s reporting on these situations in general.

Pornography, whatever your feelings about it, is inherently aimed at the viewer. That’s the whole point. Inspiration porn, likewise, turns the disabled individual into an object for your consumption. These stories place the emphasis on the typical person who does something nice to the disabled person, assuming that’s who you will identify with. The non-disabled person gets to be active; they get to drive the narrative forward. We learn about why they did their good deed and how it all makes them feel. Such pieces often editorialize, or allow wise grownups to editorialize, about how good these young people are.

In contrast, the disabled individuals are rendered passive. They rarely get to speak for themselves, to communicate how they feel, or to express their desires. Their lack of competence is presumed.

Read more.

I used to see these stories as showing the world a positive side to life with a disability, but the reality is that they often do very little to humanize the individuals with disabilities or raise awareness around real issues or experiences. In fact, although frequently well-intentioned, they really only perpetuate the “otherness” of people with disabilities and focus instead on “someone else’s emotional high”.

At its core, inspiration porn — specifically the kind that focuses on an able-bodied person “helping” someone with a disability — “demonstrates the need for a broader engagement with the social model of disability.” As I have said here before, often the hardest part about living with a disability is not coming to terms with what I can’t do, but dealing with the perception that I am more helpless than I really am.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being inspired or wanting to inspire others. We should all want to inspire each other to be better people everyday. But, as David M. Perry notes, the disability community “needs much more than kind restaurant employees, handsome quarterbacks and photo shoots. We need better policy, changing norms and real conversations about key issues. Inspiration porn makes us feel that everything is going to be OK. That’s possible only if we stop being distracted by pretty stories and have the tough conversations.”

Because I Can

Ethical Gene Editing

ChelseaGenetic EngineeringLeave a Comment

Since scientists in China confirmed last year that they have been editing the genomes of several non-viable human embryos from IVF clinics using a new promising gene-editing technique called CRISPR, most of the discussion about gene editing technology has centered around altering human embryos to eradicate certain diseases.

It sounds like a great idea, but there are some serious ethical concerns.

First, this kind of germ-line modification genetically alters future generations without their consent — and there is no telling what kind of effect this will have. Then, of course, there is the fact that many, many embryos and fetuses will have to be sacrificed on the alter of science to finally make it a reality.

There is also the likely possibility that it won’t long be limited to merely treating genetic defects, but upgrade to enhancing otherwise healthy embryos, which, as Rebecca and I talked about in the last episode of BioTalk, is a “biological arms race” that no one can win.

It should be noted, however, that altering embryos is not the only way gene editing technology can or should be used.

In the last episode of BioTalk Rebecca also encouraged the ethical use of gene editing technology like CRISPR in patients living with diseases today.

layla.pngOne-year-old Layla is a beautiful example of gene editing technology put to good, ethical use.

Layla’s leukemia — that doctors were almost certain she would shortly die from — is currently in remission thanks to gene-editing technology that allowed her to receive modified immune cells from another person.

“Her leukemia was so aggressive that such a response is almost a miracle,” said Paul Veys, a professor and director of bone marrow transplant at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) who led the team treating Layla.

According to Nature, her case is the second trial of gene-editing as a therapy. It was first used to treat 12 people with HIV.

The therapy that Layla received takes immune cells from a healthy donor and exposes them to a type of DNA-cutting enzyme called a TALEN.

The enzyme deactivates immune genes that would otherwise cause the donor cells to attack when injected into a person with leukaemia, and modifies genes to protect the new cells from anti-cancer drugs that the patient is taking.

The individual then undergoes therapy to destroy his or her own immune system, which is replaced with the modified cells. The treatment is not a permanent solution for leukaemia patients, says Qasim, but rather a ’bridge‘ to keep the person alive until a matched T cell donor can be found.

In the HIV patients, researchers used a different class of DNA-cutting enzyme called a zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN).

When added to blood extracted from the patients, the ZFNs cut the gene for a protein on T-cells targeted by HIV, and the team then pumped the cells back into the patients.

The results were positive and more than 70 patients have now been treated with the therapy.

More of this, please!

Gene editing is not unethical in and of itself. Using these gene-editing techniques on patients in a non-germ-line fashion is a much better approach. This gives each generation the opportunity to not only benefit from new advances, but also give consent.

Genetic Enhancements: A Biological Arms Race No One Can Win

ChelseaGenetic Engineering, IVFLeave a Comment

album-web.jpgLast year the UK became the first in the world to offer controversial ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments. This year they approved the use of CRISPR to edit genomes of human embryos.

In the latest episode of BioTalk, Rebecca Taylor and I talk about how scientists and governments have re-engineered language to sell the public on embryo-re-engineering.

We also look at the long-term implications of genetic enhancement. Specifically, how enhancement leads to coercion and the loss of human dignity.

Audio only:

If the embedding does not work for either of those, click here for: YouTubeSoundcloud.

Recommended: We Need a Moratorium on Genetically Modifying Humans — Paul Knoepfler, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, is by no means “pro-life”, but he understands the serious consequences of germ-line genetic modification.

He has also spoken on the coercive nature of genetic enhancement.

IVF Custody Wars: People, Not Property

ChelseaIVFLeave a Comment

Embryo custody battles are on the rise. Except, legally speaking, they aren’t really “custody” battles — in the traditional sense of the term. They’re more like property disputes.

people-not-property.jpgI was very pleased recently to find out that Missouri Right to Life has gotten together with a few other pro-life organizations to file an amicus brief in the case of McQueen v. Gadberry in Missouri Court of Appeals.

The pro-life groups are working on behalf of Jalesia McQueen, who wants to implant and give birth to the remaining two embryos that she and her ex-husband made while they were still married. She is appealing a Trial Court ruling, which ordered that the embryos must stay frozen unless and until both parties can agree on what to do with them. They also ruled that the embryonic children are marital property — though of a “unique type,” because what one party does with them in the future (the mother) may impose unwanted obligations on the other (the father).

In the latest episode of BioTalk, I spoke with my good friend Jim Cole, who is the General Cousel for Missouri Right to Life and who was responsible for editing much of the brief.

I also spoke with Mike Allen about it on his show last week:

You can read the entire brief here, and I highly suggest you do if you have time (I’ve never read a legal brief before — it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be).

The constant theme throughout is what is in the best interest of the (embryonic) children involved. And that is the ironic legacy of IVF: that couples are so desperate for children to love and yet concern what’s good and right for the children themselves is actually put last.

The Trial Court ruled against Jalesia McQueen obtaining and implanting her own embryos citing her ex-husband’s “right not to procreate.” Which is, of course, ludicrous, since procreation has already taken place.

Science establishes — and Missouri Law agrees — that a human being begins at fertilization. “Once procreation has occurred and human life has begun,” the brief states, “the rights and interests at issue can no longer be framed solely as the procreative or reproductive interests of the parents.”

America has a sordid history of defining certain classes of human beings as property. Let’s not go down that road again.

A Special Kind of Evil

ChelseaAbortionLeave a Comment

Most of the time I’m on here trying to get pro-lifers to think outside the abortion box. However, I do understand that, as life issues go, abortion is a special kind of evil.

The intentional killing of an innocent human life in what should be the safest place in the entire world — it’s mother’s womb.

Instead of a sacred, life-giving vessel, the mother’s womb has become a hostile environment, allowed to be penetrated and injected with toxic chemicals and instruments that assault the baby’s body to the point of death.

“If we accept that a mother can kill her own child,” Mother Teresa said, “how can we tell other people not to kill each other?” Indeed.

Not only that, but by blessing the killing of the obvious child in the womb, we have no moral grounds upon which to object to killing or manipulating human embryos in a test tube, no way to object to the use of aborted fetal tissue in research.


Every child deserves a chance.

On this 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a s/o to my baby sister for giving both my nephews a chance (neither of whom were conceived under the most ideal circumstances) and the rest of us a chance to fall in love twice.

Bioethics 2015: Winners and Losers

ChelseaGenetic Engineering1 Comment

The Center for Bioethics and Culture has released their annual list of winners and losers for the previous year. Most have to do with surrogacy and assisted suicide. All are good candidates, but I noticed one glaring omission.

designer-baby2.jpg2015 was a tipping-point year for the genetic altering human embryos and, consequently, the genetic future of humanity.

The losers in this category would be:

  1. the UK, which became the first in the world to offer controversial ‘three-parent’ fertility treatments.
  2. China, where scientists confirmed that they have been editing the genomes of several non-viable human embryos from IVF clinics using a new promising gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

These are major developments, heralded by many science/tech magazines as some of the greatest scientific “advancements” of the past year. And because of them 2016 could very well be the year of the first GM humans.

If there are any winners to be awarded here I would give it to Congress for passing a modest, but meaningful protection from human embryo genetic manipulation. According to my friend Dr. David Prentice, a provision originally placed in the Agricultural Appropriations bill in the House, and kept in the Omnibus funding bill that passed last month, effectively blocks genetic manipulation of human embryos for the time being to allow further discussion on the subject.

I hope this provision really is as effective as Dr. Prentice says it is. Since the UK approved three-parent IVF last spring, the FDA has been reconsidering some of their restrictions on genetic engineering.

Though the response from scientific community has been overwhelmingly positive about going forward with these techniques, a good portion of scientists have cautioned against three-parent IVF, and agree we should have a voluntary moratorium on the editing of DNA in human embryos. There are just too many unknown risks.

The long-term consequences and social implications of this science can’t be ignored.

See more: Human Beings Are Not Science Experiments


ChelseaPro Life1 Comment

Happy New Year and, more importantly, a blessed solemnity of Mary the Mother of God!

Andrea Solario, Madonna With the Green Cushion

The body is noble because the Son of God, in assuming flesh, did not do so by appearing in the full bloom and blossom of manhood. He thought so much of it that He took His Body from the body of a woman: “He took birth from woman” (Gal. 4:4). Like every body that He made, His, too, drew nourishment from her body and blood; like all children of men, was nursed at her breasts and remained with her for thirty years in obedience. It is thanks to a body that the world could see God in the form of a man; it is thanks to a body that this God-man could utter the sweetest word that has rung down the corridors of history: “Mother.” (Ven. Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married)

“Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed” (Lk. 11:27) Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.

The Feminist Case Against Surrogacy

ChelseaReproductive Technology, SurrogacyLeave a Comment

Robert Oscar Lopez, PhD interviews Kathleen Sloan, board member for the National Organization for Women and a regular consultant for the CBC:

Human biotechnology creates strange bedfellows. Although Sloan is a committed abortion rights advocate, she has also lent her voice to campaigns opposing human cloning and, most recently, surrogacy and third party reproduction.

Even pro-choice feminists agree that we should stop using women as human incubators.

Holy Innocents: Yesterday and Today

ChelseaPro LifeLeave a Comment

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. -Jeremiah 31:15

Today, December 28, the Church remembers the “Holy Innocents” who lost their lives in Bethlehem shortly after Christ’s birth.

Then it was all boys age two and under who were put to death at the hands of King Herod and his soldiers because of Herod’s fear of the prophecy of the Messiah. Now over 4,000 innocent children of both genders lose their lives every day in this country because of abortion. And let’s not forget the unknown number of innocent lives sacrificed on the altars of science and reproductive “rights”.

Much like the Holy Innocents of yesterday, the murder of today’s innocents is also blessed by our Government.

As we remember the Holy innocents of yesterday, perhaps we should also request their intercession and appeal to God’s mercy on behalf of the millions of innocents being slaughtered here and around the world today.

We rejoice in the glory of Jesus Christ, who conquered the enemy not by force of arms but with a white-robed army of children! -Lauds 12/28

**image of ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’, Duccio di Buoninsegna

Bioethics and the Birth of Christ

ChelseaPro LifeLeave a Comment

baby-jesus.jpgThis is a classic post, from Msgr. Charles Pope on “Bioethics and the Birth of Christ”:

As we approach Christmas we ought to ponder the magnificence of human conception, gestation, birth and life. Even as we extoll the birth of Jesus, we also do well to acknowledge the awesome and mysterious truth that every human person emerges not merely from a biological process, but from the very mind and heart of God, from his will and as an act of his love. None of us are here by accident.

He goes on to discuss the many ways that God’s sovereignty over human conception and life are usurped or ignored in modern times via In Vitro Fertilization, irreverence for sexuality, abortion, and rejection of the disabled and the imperfect. Read the whole thing.

In recent decades the creation of new human life has become nothing more than a biological formula — a science experiment, rather than the mysterious fruit of a loving act between husband and wife.

“When life is merely a technology to do with as we please,” Msgr Pope writes, “it is not long before we end up in some pretty dark places.”

Since the creation of human life has been taken out of the womb and into the science lab we’ve seen some pretty dark stuff: women exploited and abused, babies bought and sold on the black market…

And now we are moving closer and closer to genetically-engineering our children and, consequently, altering the genetic future of humanity.

Let us remember

visitationicon.pngIn Gaudium et Spes we read: “[O]nly in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (22)

By His Incarnation, Christ intimately united Himself to the entire human race and showed us the incomparable value of every human person from the very beginning and reminded us that God alone is the author of all human life.

While we are called to cooperate with Him in the mystery of creation, the initiative, says Msgr. Pope, is always God’s. We do not have the authority to take matters of — either the beginning or the end of — human life into our own hands.