By Remy Servis
In a fascinating Huffington Post article by Jonathan Moreno, Ph.D., an advisory board member for Global Bioethics Initiative, the interaction between the American conservative “right” and liberal “left” and their representations of the bioethics field in the modern day is explored. Moreno begins his article with the belief that most highly publicized bioethics issues have generally benefited the conservative right. However, he quickly dispels this thought, suggesting that in fact the opposite is true.
He discusses how, in the past, the conservative camp tried to use the up-and-coming, hot button medical issues that could be classified as ‘bioethical issues’ as a “spear” to drive their perspectives and motives on conservative issues. Claiming most particularly the “pro-life” stance on abortion and stem-cell research, as well as a host of other issues to ride against (e.g., illicit drug use, assisted suicide), conservatives tried to incorporate these positions on bioethical dilemmas into the Republican administration of the early 2000’s. Claiming these issues to be a “key priority” of their camp, conservatives tried to bring their agenda to the forefront.
However, as Moreno explains, the right’s priorities have definitely shifted in recent years— they have moved away from focusing on bioethics and other social issues, instead choosing to represent themselves primarily through their opinions on the economy and jobs. Moreno hypothesizes that this shift was largely due to the fact that conservatives realized their bioethics crusade had failed, and was no longer the best strategy to influence political culture in the changing social landscape of the United States. With new, progressive laws being instituted across the country (on controversial issues like medicinal drug usage and medically assisted suicide), conservatives have abandoned the fight, and more people than ever before are classifying themselves as “liberals”. The left has used this shift to its advantage, now claiming an almost monopolistic claim on bioethical opinions. Driven by their associations with the momentous gay rights movement, liberals’ opinions have more power over bioethical issues, which admittedly are tangential to the gay rights issue itself, but nevertheless strengthened in tandem.
Moreno subtly exposes his support of the liberal camp, suggesting that research using legally aborted fetus tissue has been extremely promising, as it is already giving us the potential for curing dementia and traumatic brain injuries in the future. He is careful to reaffirm that social liberalism does not equal economic liberalism, and he invokes the existence of the libertarian stance in the midst of all this debate.
The article leaves the reader convinced, both of Moreno’s stance and his argument as a whole. It is hard to argue against the fact that current bioethical issues are working primarily to the benefit of the American left, who seem to control the majority opinion of social issues in our country. Our country is one where the young have more influence than ever before, and where baby boomers are slowly adjusting to the ethical expectations that accompany the technology of today. The flexibility of bioethics to span the scientific, technological and social rights realms is what embroils this field, in particular, in this shift. We must keep an eye on this field as the political landscape grows and changes, for whoever holds the bioethical scepter has a hand-up in terms of their influence.
To read the full article, click here.