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John Stevens, Matthew Mason, why do you speak as though organ harvesting were a thing of the past?

This is the second of three blogs responding to John Stevens and Matthew Mason's analyses of the minority view against aborted fetal cell line vaccines put forward by myself and John Piper.

The first part of my response is here; the third, which will examine John Stevens's pro-life strategy in the light of the history of successful social reform, should be out (God willing) next week.

Cooperation, Appropriation, or Continuation?

I found rather helpful Matthew Mason's dissatisfaction with the oft-cited concept of cooperating with past evil and focus instead on the idea of appropriating the benefits of past evil. This seems a more accurate description of the kind of situation whereby an evil has ended but posterity picks up the benefits provided through it, without condoning or cooperating with that original evil. The classic example would be using knowledge gained from (the now universally condemned and mercifully ended) Holocaust experiments.

It has been common for Christians to speak of the use of these aborted fetal cell vaccines as though it were exactly that, and both Mason and Stevens characterise it as nothing more than the appropriation of the benefits of an evil long past.

Mason clarifies: "if the use of stem cell lines involved a regular pattern of procuring tissue from newly aborted foetuses, the moral situation would be very different. But it does not."

But here's the thing: it does.

It's Not Over

As recently as 2015, 9 fetuses were "obtained" in China for the production of a new fetal cell line, WALVAX-2.

Planned Parenthood, the main abortion provider in America, is known to sell organs of babies for medical research. They alter the way in which they kill the babies so as to preserve the organs that are being requested.

Looking for something closer to home? The Cardiff Fetal Tissue Bank and SWIFT tissue bank "collect human fetal tissues from the tissue products resulting from elective termination of pregnancy ('abortions'). In the consent process, the purposes of our research programmes to develop new therapies for patients with degenerative brain diseases are fully explained, and the women are asked to donate their tissues to these research programmes."

We should also take a moment to acknowledge the huge number of victims of IVF: data collected in the UK over 21 years showed that 15 embryos were created per woman conceiving through IVF - a total of 3.5 million embryos. Of these, half were “discarded” (killed), whilst more than 800,000 were frozen indefinitely. More than 5,000 human beings were set aside for “scientific research”.

"No new abortion was performed or utilised to develop the [Covid-19] vaccines," says John Stevens. But that is beside the point. The cell line developed from the kidney of a baby girl killed in the Netherlands in 1970s is part and parcel of the very same culture of organ harvesting from innocent babies legally killed that continues to this very day. So we are placing ourselves firmly within that ongoing tradition, instead of standing against it. We are opting into it, investing in it, entrenching it, normalising it.

How can we claim that there is no connection between the use of these vaccines and the ongoing practice of baby organ harvesting around the world today? Especially when we remember, as Mason points out, that the HEK-293 cell line is not, in fact, "immortal", and will one day ask to be replaced.

And how can we liken this to benefitting from the Holocaust, which ended 75 years ago, when we are still killing babies and harvesting their organs to this very day? How can the use of vaccines that depend on fetal cell lines communicate anything other than tolerance or endorsement of this ongoing exploitation of the bodies of innocent babies today?

It hasn't stopped. It carries on. I feel like carrying on saying the same thing a million different ways because no-one seems to believe or want to engage with this uncomfortable truth!

Rather than go on repeating myself, however, let me close with a non-rhetorical question:

Matthew Mason, John Stevens, how can you speak of using these vaccines as appropriation of past evil, when organ harvesting from aborted babies for medical purposes in fact continues to this very day?

To Mason in particular: since you say, "if the use of stem cell lines involved a regular pattern of procuring tissue from newly aborted foetuses, the moral situation would be very different," could you explain, now that I have shown you that it is part of a "pattern of procuring tissue from newly aborted fetuses", what that moral difference is?

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Hauwa Boobakar
Hauwa Boobakar
Feb 07, 2021

I have thoroughly enjoyed both your reasoning as well as Matthew Masons. While on the issue of receiving the vaccine I am persuaded that this is an issue of conscience as a Christian, I can’t help but be impressed by your dogged conviction in arguing your case.

I could also argue convincingly that western society’s foundational wealth derives primarily from the evil that was predicated upon the wholesale theft and carting away of Africans in the transatlantic slave trade.

The denigration and treatment of the minorities who share the same hew as those “slaves” in western society is perpetuated till this day.

Most of the privileged back away from this truth and tend to argue that this generation is sufficiently…


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Dominic Stockford
Dominic Stockford
Feb 01, 2021

Thank you for this very helpful discussion. As Christians we sometimes get a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but struggle to put it into a properly argued presentation. You are assisting me to do so in this matter.

Can I ask one question. Do we yet have any idea what the more traditional vaccine from Novovax contains, and whether it is indeed a possible track for those of us who aren't 'anti-vaxxers', but rather seek not to be involved in "appropriating past evil"?

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