Why I Am (& Always Will Be) Pro-Life


10 week fetus

Here in Tennessee, abortion is once again the debate of the day. With Amendment One on the ballot today, the last few weeks have seen a dramatic spike in television ads, conversations, debates, and the return of the same old arguments both for and against abortion in general. I’ve heard the typical arguments: “God gives life. We must protect babies who cannot protect themselves. Abortion is murder.”  and, “It’s a woman’s body and it’s her right alone to choose how to deal with it. A child who will be neglected or unloved shouldn’t be brought into this world. If a woman is raped, it’s simply inhumane to expect her to carry a reminder of the horrific event.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. To both sides.

There are philosophical and rational reasons to be pro-life. I appreciate bio-ethicist Scott Klusendorf’s argument of simplifying the debate to one question: “What is the unborn?” It removes the religious element altogether and places the discussion on a philosophical level.

But in all of the level headed discussion that’s possible, this debate quickly digresses into emotional and experiential arguments. People tell me that I don’t know what it’s like to be in the position of being pregnant and being unable or unwilling to care for the child. I’ve never been raped and don’t know what I would do if I was in the position of dealing with the aftermath of both rape and pregnancy. And those people are right. My personal experience doesn’t lend me the opportunity to speak from that perspective.

However, my experience allows me to speak about abortion from a very different but still VERY personal perspective; some of my favorite people in this world were born out of the circumstances described above, and I refuse to believe my life would be better without them.

When I hear people say that babies who will be born to people who will neglect or abuse them should be aborted, I hear them say that this world would be a better place if my three sisters and several of my best friends weren’t here.

When I hear people say that babies who are the products of rape shouldn’t exist, I think of my ministry friend Ronnie Hill, and I think about the work that wouldn’t be done if his mom had decided to abort him after she was raped as a teen.

When I hear people say that women who aren’t ready to have babies are better off when they delay parenting until they’re in a better position to parent, I think of my friends and women I have counseled, who made that decision 15 or 20 years ago, and still weep with grief over the loss they never realized they would experience.

I’m sure that the suicide rate of people who grow up in abusive environments is higher than in those raised in better childhood situations, but if we’re going to argue for choice, shouldn’t that person have the choice to end their life rather than the choice be made for them?

I am well aware that my parents (and all foster parents) are the exception and not the rule to caring for kids, and I know that countless children do live horrific lives of abuse and neglect, with no known way of escape.

But I also know that there is love and care beyond the two people who gave birth to those children. As I mentioned above, there are three incredible women who are my sisters who had really crappy birth parents, people completely incapable of caring for them. And the only reason I have those three sisters is because their crappy, drug addicted, abusive, neglectful mothers didn’t have abortions when that would have been the easy and even understandable option.

So why am I pro-life? I could give you a theological explanation and spout a lot of Bible verses. I could lay out a debate full of philosophical laws and rhetorical devices. But today, I have friends and family who have spent weeks hearing tv ads and talking heads say that they shouldn’t be here, and I want to be pro-sisters. And pro-friends.

I want them to know that they are loved. And valued. And wanted. I want them to know that I am pro-them.

Sisters

 

(top photo credit: http://imgarcade.com/1/human-fetus-at-12-weeks/)

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Sincere, Hypothetical Question for my Pro-choice friends


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The abortion debate seems to have been boiled down to the talking points of a woman’s right to choose how to treat her body vs. an unborn child’s right to life.

I still hold to the belief that an unborn child is dependent upon a woman’s body, but not a part of it.

With that in mind, here is my sincere, sci-fi hypothetical question for my pro-choice friends: if a procedure, as equally invasive as abortion, were created to remove the fetus so it could be implanted into a woman desiring a child, would you then support making abortion illegal?

In other words, if “adoptive transplantation” were possible, would you then support legislation making abortion illegal?

Why or why not?

REMINDER: This is an emotionally charged subject on both sides. Comments that are attacking, abusive, condescending, or otherwise disrespectful will be deleted. Honest dialogue only occurs in safe places; let’s keep this site one of those places. Thanks!

Against All Odds…


According to an article published in the New York Times on January 23, life began for Maurice Mannion-Vanover on September 11, 1990, with every odd stacked against him.

He and his twin sister were born to a crack-addicted, HIV-positive mother who was incapable of caring for them and soon abandoned them to be raised by the System. Their physical and mental struggles were so great that his sister lived only 20 months. Maurice was also HIV-positive and had severe developmental delays. He would require constant care for his entire life, but against all odds, he was adopted and he thrived under the love and care of his adoptive parents.  Maurice passed away on January 14th, a life cut short by the tragic choices of others. The mere fact that he had a life at all can be seen as nothing short of a miracle.

In a society which increasingly judges the worth of the individual by his or her ability to contribute to society, many would say that it would have been best for everyone involved if Maurice and his sister Michelle had been aborted. After all, their mother was obviously incapable of caring for them and they would merely be two more burdens on an already strapped Child Protective Services System. They were sure to endure lives of pain, suffering and rejection. Lives no one would choose to live.

I have heard more than once the argument that if a child will not be loved and well cared for by their parents then it would be best for them to never be brought into the world at all. Many attempt to twist logic and make their stance concerning abortion a humane one. Who, after all, would want to be born into a life of pain and suffering? Funny thing is, I know many people who were born into situations much like that of Maurice, and worse. (For a great example, check out the testimony of Tony Nolan.) Not a single one of them has said that they would have preferred to never be born. Given the option, the human spirit craves life.

If you read the article in the New York Times, you will see the impact that young Maurice had on a family and a community. An impact that never would have occurred had the “decrease the surplus population” attitude of social Darwinism succeeded in sacrificing Maurice and Michelle on the alter of the American Dream.

That is, in a nutshell, the ethical definition of abortion. It is the pursuit of an idol, one’s desired life, at the expense of another life. We read today with horror and disgust at the arcane practice of child sacrifice to ancient gods, but at its root, abortion is child sacrifice at the alters of convenience, financial stability, self-interest, hedonism.

The worth of a fetus is often determined today by the desire its parents have for it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in Neonatal Intensive Care units to preserve the life of premature babies; in some states, those same babies could be legally aborted by the same doctor that delivered and is now fighting to save its life. In some of those same states, a person can be charged with two murders if they kill a pregnant woman, even if that woman is on her way to an abortion clinic to voluntarily end the life of the fetus.

I am unashamedly pro-life and anti-abortion (yes, I believe these terms to explain two different yet related ethical stances). I believe that God is the one who knits us together, creates us each individually in his image. I believe that abortion is but one example of man’s attempt to override the sovereign creativity of the Creator.

But I am not looking to change minds based on Scripture or on my religious beliefs. In this month that we reflect on the Sanctity of Human Life, I am asking us all, regardless of religious or political beliefs, to look past “what-if” arguments of rape or incest (less than 1% of abortions performed are a result of such a situation), and think well about the question of life and the inherent worth of a human life.

Take the time to ask yourself the hard questions. What constitutes life? What gives life worth? How do our current laws concerning abortion, homicide and manslaughter, and emergency medicine contradict one another? Is there a way to build consistency concerning human life and dignity into our laws and so ensure that the weakest of our citizens, the unborn, have the opportunity to chase after life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

The rights of women are supposedly staunchly defended in the abortion debate, but we also speak loudly in America that the rights of one person only extend insofar as they do not infringe upon the rights of another. Abortion denies the right that we claim to be most sacred in America– the right to life.

Why this Faithful Evangelical is not Voting for Barack Obama


I don’t normally blog about political issues. I am not a staunch party line voter, either. Those who know me well know I am a political nerd and watch more MSNBC, CNN, and FOXNews than should be allowed by law. I’ve voted for Repbulicans, Democrats, and even the occassional Independent in my voting experience. But I generally keep my potentially devicive opinions concerning politics to myself in hopes of keeping every avenue possible open for sharing the Gospel with an unbelieving world. Paul says we should be all things to all men in hopes of winning some, and I usually attemtpt to follow that loosely by staying quiet concerning political issues.

However, the time eventually comes when the political season brings moral issues into play, and this year’s election is revealing a sharp contrast between what many claim to believe and how they are actually living their lives. Those who claim to be both politically liberal and evangelically Christian claim that the “right to life” is a “right-wing” fundamentalist issue in which people are close minded and “one issue” voters. A close look at Scripture would show that, under that definition, our God is Himself a right-wing fundamentalist who upholds human life above all other issues.

As the one member of creation which Scripture states was made in the image of God, as the only creature in creation given free will and a soul, as the only creature for whom Christ came to die, we should see right to life (both at the beginning and the end of a life here on earth) not as single issue voting, but as foundational to our belief system. Human life should be the starting point of consideration of any candidate. Where he or she stands on issues such as economics, health care, and the environment pale in comparison to the stance taken on life given by God.

I will not deny that issues like the war in Iraq, the current state of our economy, and our looming health care crisis are important issues. But the truth of the matter is that these issues have largely been created by poor choices of selfish American adults. Impulse, materialistic purchasing can be largely blamed for our economic crisis. We bought more than we needed with money we did not have and now we are paying the consequences. Our health issues could be slashed overnight if we would simply eat better, eat less, exercise more, and quit smoking, drinking, overworking, and overeating. We want the government to legislate solutions for our poor decisions. While the war in Iraq was created by the poor choices of a few Americans, every soldier currently serving there is in the military by choice (at least they originally enlisted by choice and therefore joined knowing that going to war was a possibility) and most would not return home early if given the chance. Those in the military generally have a high ethic of personal responsibility and dedication to seeing a job through to the end, whether or not that job was created for the right reasons.

While the issues at the top of the democratic platform have been caused largely by the choices of a self-seeking people, the issue of right to life is in the best interest of those who are not able to speak or choose for themselves. No one asks a fetus if it would like to be born. Many times, no one asks the stroke victim or the injured or the elderly if they would like to see the natural end of their days. Those at both the beginning and end of their lives usually have no voice for themselves and are at the mercy of others to seek protection and support.

We are mandated in Scripture to care for the orphaned and the widowed. These are specific terms for two large groups of people who represent one thing: a population that cannot care for itself. We would be wise to remember that, as evangelical believers, we base our belief system on the fact that we were helpless in our sin, without choice, incapable of saving ourselves, and a loving Father sent His Son to die in our place so that we would have the right to eternal life.

Separation of church and state does not mean you leave your religion in your car when enter the polling area. Scripture is clear that as Christians, all decisions we make should be made looking through the lens of Scripture with the glory of God being both the means and the ends of the decision we ultimately make.

Please read the following article carefully and with an open mind. It was not written by a right-wing, fundamentalist religious fanatic or a theologian or seminary professor, but by a secular professor of jurisprudence and senior fellow at Princeton University.

“Why Faithful Evangelicals Cannot Vote for Barack Obama”

By: Daniel L. Akin

It is incumbent upon every believer, when they are active in the American political process, to vote their conscience and to further let their conscience be guided by the Word of God. Nowhere is this more important than in the area of abortion, an issue on which God’s Word is abundantly clear. In light of recent secular media reports and pollster predictions that many evangelicals may be supporting Democratic nominee Barack Obama for president, I found the following article by Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University to be compelling. Please read it as you become more informed about the candidates and how you can vote on election day in such a way that glorifies Jesus.”

Obama’s Abortion Extremism

Robert P. George

Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States.  He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate.  Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals—even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals—who aggressively promote Obama’s candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.

What is going on here?

I have examined the arguments advanced by Obama’s self-identified pro-life supporters, and they are spectacularly weak.  It is nearly unfathomable to me that those advancing them can honestly believe what they are saying.  But before proving my claims about Obama’s abortion extremism, let me explain why I have described Obama as “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice.”

According to the standard argument for the distinction between these labels, nobody is pro-abortion.  Everybody would prefer a world without abortions.  After all, what woman would deliberately get pregnant just to have an abortion?  But given the world as it is, sometimes women find themselves with unplanned pregnancies at times in their lives when having a baby would present significant problems for them.  So even if abortion is not medically required, it should be permitted, made as widely available as possible and, when necessary, paid for with taxpayers’ money.

The defect in this argument can easily be brought into focus if we shift to the moral question that vexed an earlier generation of Americans: slavery.  Many people at the time of the American founding would have preferred a world without slavery but nonetheless opposed abolition.  Such people—Thomas Jefferson was one—reasoned that, given the world as it was, with slavery woven into the fabric of society just as it had often been throughout history, the economic consequences of abolition for society as a whole and for owners of plantations and other businesses that relied on slave labor would be dire.  Many people who argued in this way were not monsters but honest and sincere, albeit profoundly mistaken.  Some (though not Jefferson) showed their personal opposition to slavery by declining to own slaves themselves or freeing slaves whom they had purchased or inherited.  They certainly didn’t think anyone should be forced to own slaves.  Still, they maintained that slavery should remain a legally permitted option and be given constitutional protection.

Would we describe such people, not as pro-slavery, but as “pro-choice”?  Of course we would not.  It wouldn’t matter to us that they were “personally opposed” to slavery, or that they wished that slavery were “unnecessary,” or that they wouldn’t dream of forcing anyone to own slaves.  We would hoot at the faux sophistication of a placard that said “Against slavery?  Don’t own one.”  We would observe that the fundamental divide is between people who believe that law and public power should permit slavery, and those who think that owning slaves is an unjust choice that should be prohibited.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let us assume that there could be a morally meaningful distinction between being “pro-abortion” and being “pro-choice.”  Who would qualify for the latter description?  Barack Obama certainly would not.  For, unlike his running mate Joe Biden, Obama does not think that abortion is a purely private choice that public authority should refrain from getting involved in.  Now, Senator Biden is hardly pro-life.  He believes that the killing of the unborn should be legally permitted and relatively unencumbered.  But unlike Obama, at least Biden would not use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, thereby leaving Americans free to choose not to implicate themselves in it.  If we stretch things to create a meaningful category called “pro-choice,” then Biden might be a plausible candidate for the label; at least he respects your choice or mine not to facilitate deliberate feticide.

The same cannot be said for Barack Obama.  For starters, he has promised to seek repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has for many years protected pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest.  The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, “forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.”  In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen.  That is why people who profit from abortion love Obama even more than they do his running mate.

But this barely scratches the surface of Obama’s extremism.  He has promised that “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, “a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons.”  In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry—protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs.  The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would “sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.”

It gets worse.  Obama, unlike even many “pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice.  He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a “punishment” that she should not endure.  He has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand.  Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need.  There is certainly nothing “pro-choice” about that.

But it gets even worse.  When pro-life members of Obama’s own party in Congress proposed the so-called “95-10” legislation to strengthen the social safety net for poor women and, they hoped, reduce the number of abortions by 95% in ten years, Obama refused to support it.  This legislation would not have made a single abortion illegal.  It simply sought to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies.  Here was a concrete test of whether Obama was “pro-choice” rather than pro-abortion.  He flunked.  Then he flunked again by opposing the inclusion of unborn children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-Chip)—which would have helped to save unborn babies without making abortion illegal. Many implacably “pro-choice” members of Congress like Edward Kennedy supported it.  But Barack Obama stood resolutely with the most stalwart abortion advocates in opposing it.

It gets worse yet.  In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability.  This legislation would not have banned any abortions.  Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws.  (This is what Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.)  The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer.  But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it.  For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection—even ordinary medical or comfort care—even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother.  So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.

You may be thinking, It can’t get worse than that.  But it does.

For several years, Americans have been debating the use for biomedical research of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (originally for reproductive purposes) but now left in a frozen condition in cryopreservation units.  President Bush has restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research of the type that makes use of these embryos and destroys them in the process.  I support the President’s restriction, but some legislators with excellent pro-life records, including John McCain, argue that the use of federal money should be permitted where the embryos are going to be discarded or die anyway as the result of the parents’ decision.  Senator Obama, too, wants to lift the restriction.

But Obama would not stop there.  He has co-sponsored a bill—strongly opposed by McCain—that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed.  In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning.  It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.  This “clone and kill” bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China—the equivalent of legally mandated abortion.  In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill.  But it is nothing of the kind.  What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.

Can it get still worse?  Yes.

Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos.  But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it.  From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable.  Why would someone not wish to find a method of producing the pluripotent cells scientists want that all Americans could enthusiastically endorse?  Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives?  It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.

This ultimate manifestation of Obama’s extremism brings us back to the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and Evangelical apologists.

They typically do not deny the facts I have reported.  They could not; each one is a matter of public record.  But despite Obama’s injustices against the most vulnerable human beings, and despite the extraordinary support he receives from the industry that profits from killing the unborn (which should be a good indicator of where he stands), some Obama supporters insist that he is the better candidate from the pro-life point of view.

They say that his economic and social policies would so diminish the demand for abortion that the overall number would actually go down—despite the federal subsidizing of abortion and the elimination of hundreds of pro-life laws.  The way to save lots of unborn babies, they say, is to vote for the pro-abortion—oops! “pro-choice”—candidate.  They tell us not to worry that Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy (against funding abortion abroad), parental consent and notification laws, conscience protections, and the funding of alternatives to embryo-destructive research.  They ask us to look past his support for Roe v. Wade, the Freedom of Choice Act, partial-birth abortion, and human cloning and embryo-killing.  An Obama presidency, they insist, means less killing of the unborn.

This is delusional.

We know that the federal and state pro-life laws and policies that Obama has promised to sweep away (and that John McCain would protect) save thousands of lives every year.  The rigorous studies conducted by Professor Michael New and other social scientists have removed any doubt.  In some cases, as we have seen, even the abortion lobby confirms the truth of what these scholars have determined.  Nor can we ignore the effect of the message that Obama and his policies would send: that abortion is a legitimate solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies (so clearly legitimate that taxpayers should be forced to pay for it).

But for a moment let’s suppose, against all the evidence, that Obama’s proposals would reduce the number of abortions, even while subsidizing the killing with taxpayer dollars.  Even so, many more unborn human beings would likely be killed under Obama than under McCain.  A Congress controlled by strong Democratic majorities under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would enact the bill authorizing the mass industrial production of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are killed.  As president, Obama would sign it.  The number of tiny humans created and killed under this legislation (assuming that an efficient human cloning technique is soon perfected) could dwarf the number of lives saved as a result of the reduced demand for abortion—even if we take a delusionally optimistic view of what that number would be.

Barack Obama and John McCain differ on many important issues about which reasonable people of goodwill, including pro-life Americans of every faith, disagree: how best to fight international terrorism, how to restore economic growth and prosperity, how to distribute the tax burden and reduce poverty, etc.

But on abortion and the industrial creation of embryos for destructive research, there is a profound difference of moral principle, not just prudence.  These questions reveal the character and judgment of each man.  Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect.  Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these tiny members of the human family the basic protection of the laws.  Over the next four to eight years, as many as three U.S. Supreme Court justices are likely to retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope.  Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he promised to apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations:  jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama.  John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it.  This would not make abortion illegal, but it would return the issue to the forums of democratic deliberation, where pro-life Americans could engage in a fair debate to persuade fellow citizens that killing the unborn is no way to address the problems of pregnant women in need.

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be?  Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection.  It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin.  It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights.  In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the laws.  In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: “that question is above my pay grade.”  It was a profoundly disingenuous answer:  For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty.  His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling:  human beings have no rights until infancy—and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

In the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try.  Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.  He serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics and on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST).  George is a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey.