A "trick question" on abortion?

If you believe life begins at conception and you're forced to choose, do you rescue a 2-year-old child or five blastulas in a petri dish?


Tim Grieve
March 7, 2006 11:07PM (UTC)

Call us juvenile, but this amused us.

As the religious right tees up a Supreme Court fight over abortion, some voices on the left are pushing the "life begins at conception" argument to its logical extremes. Last month at firedoglake, Jane Hamsher asked what an antiabortion person would do if he found himself in a burning fertility clinic with a 2-year-old child and a petri dish full blastulas -- and couldn't save both. Mike Stark, who runs a blog that encourages liberals to torment right-wing talk radio hosts, took up the torch by calling into WABC and putting the question to host Andrew Wilkow.

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Wilkow wouldn't say what he would do. "You can put anybody in a stupid, 'Catch-22' situation," he sputtered. "What if I can grab all the petri dishes and the kid and make everybody happy? You want to know why this is idiotic? Because you're the type of person that would burn a cop at the stake in a shoot-or-not-shoot situation where they have one Mississippi to make a decision, and you want me to tell you what I'd do in a burning building situation?"

When Stark suggested that Wilkow, like anyone else, would rescue the 2-year-old, Wilkow exploded. "You don't know what I would do. You don't know a clue about what I'd do ... Shut up for a second ... Shut your mouth for a second, OK? This is what's bothering you. You can't storm in and tell me what I'd do and then tell me what you know that I would do and then tell me who I am. You don't know me. You can't tell me how to think ... Because you don't know. Don't tell me what I would do and what I wouldn't do based on your preconceived notions of stereotypical conservatives."

After he hung up on Stark, Wilkow said he'd been victimized by a "preconceived, trick-question scenario." But of course, there is a right answer -- at least if you really believe that those five blastulas are every bit as alive as that 2-year-old child.

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Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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