Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I ADORE Jeff Gannon!

Here's his latest column from the Washington Blade.

THE RECENT FOCUS on issues surrounding stem cell research has revived an ethical debate in some scientific circles about human genetic engineering.
In expanding the frontiers of research into the basic makeup of the human species, discoveries made along the way may provide an answer about whether sexual orientation is determined by genetic factors. In the past two decades, prevailing thought has shifted from homosexuality being a learned behavior to a belief that a person is born gay.
Isolation of a “gay gene” might cause a seismic shift in support for abortion among gay people. At present, gay men and lesbians line up strongly behind a woman’s right to an abortion, albeit under a less sinister banner of “freedom of choice.”
How might that position change if parents were able to decide to terminate a pregnancy because of the presence of a genetic predisposition to homosexual behavior?
It would be folly to think that most prospective parents would be willing to bring a pregnancy to term knowing the child would be born gay. The issue is far less prickly for those opposed to abortion and homosexuality, since the identification of a gay gene would probably be quickly followed by a therapy to eradicate it as if it were a genetic defect.
Despite growing tolerance of homosexuals in American culture, it is questionable whether many parents would want that lifestyle for their children.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, Maine state Rep. Brian Duprey proposed a law that would prohibit termination of a pregnancy based on the sexual orientation of a fetus. Other lawmakers viewed it as a disingenuous attempt to force them to choose between supporting gay rights and abortion rights, since the bill’s Republican author supports neither.
But the initiative anticipates what may be an inevitable dilemma. Does unrestricted abortion pose a threat to the future of the gay community? What could be done about anti-gay bigotry toward the unborn and what rights would be sacrificed in the process?
Already abortion rights supporters are gearing up to oppose any nominee to the Supreme Court who might overturn Roe vs. Wade. For 30 years, they have challenged legislation that would place limits on abortion, believing that any ground given in the battle would lead to outlawing the practice.
It is inconceivable that they would reverse course to allow some kind of non-discrimination exception.
Part of the problem is that the Supreme Court decision that constitutionalized the right to abortion is based on a specious assertion of privacy, not an explicit constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
It would be impossible to protect a gay fetus without undermining the concept of privacy between a woman and her physician.
LESS TOLERANT CULTURES might not face the same ethical dilemma. In societies where homosexuality is illegal, it is possible that abortions would be forced upon mothers whose fetuses test positive for a gay gene.
In China and North Korea, women are routinely subjected to forced abortions because they have not obtained government permission to bear a child. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that those regimes might view homosexuality as an undesirable trait and seek to eliminate it.
While such a discovery is speculative, it bears some consideration in advance. In 1993, Dean Hamer, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, announced that he believed he had isolated a gay gene. Even though his claim has not yet been confirmed, it is an indication that science is pursuing such a line of research.
Along with scientific and technological advances come moral and ethical challenges. Without a thoughtful discussion of the implications of unlocking the mystery of human sexuality, there could be a brave new world with significantly fewer gays in it.