Pennsylvanians for Human Life Logo - PHL provides educational information 
                                              to approximately 35,000 people each 
                                              year. Pennsylvanians for Human Life Logo - PHL provides educational information 
                                              to approximately 35,000 people each 

Book Reviews:

Baby Business

How money, science, and politics drive the commerce of conception

By Debora L. Spar
Harvard Business School Press, 2006

Reviewed by PHL

Debora Spar, a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School has examined the modern processes of obtaining babies and evaluated them from a business point of view. While avoiding any significant moralizing she has concluded that market forces, greatly aided by modern technology, now dominate essentially all aspects of this industry.

Professor Spar’s basic conclusion is that these free market forces have been highly beneficial so far in developing a useful, amoral, and highly profitable industry but left alone these same forces will develop social inequities and risk situations beyond that which society would find acceptable.

Beneath the thorough and efficiently analytical tone of the book one gets the unmistakable impression of a utilitarian industry enabled by a self satisfying band of wanters who want a child even more than they want a mansion.

This well documented study – there are almost 600 reference notes – examines the businesses – the fertility clinics, the adoption agencies, the drug companies – the governments and government agencies mostly US but also foreign, and most of all the customers, those anxious would-be parents ready and willing to spend enormous sums to have a child. The history and modern development of each of the components of the industry are described in easy reading detail. Infertility, the clinics, surrogacy, genetic diagnosis and modification, cloning, and adoption are each examined in turn both as a revenue business and as a function driven strongly by consumer demand. The study includes extensive data on prices and levels of availability and regulation in these.

The study points out that, while the “baby business” is a worldwide industry, the United States, as the most open environment for most aspects of the industry, has become its major driving force.

The commercial aspects of the industry, operating with few controls or oversights, has many benefits, not the least of which is enabling the various components to develop in the first place. However these same commercial aspects tend to drive the industry into some murky ethical and legal problem areas. To the extent that the “baby business” remains in a free market mode it also has the potential to generate major societal problems such as a disparity of availability between rich and poor as well as the abuse of the poor, especially in foreign countries, for services such as surrogacy.

Professor Spar offers an analysis of four potential policy options which she terms:

1- Market forces
2- Prohibition
3- Insurance (My term)
4- Regulation

Left to market forces alone the study believes that the risks and inherent inequities would be too great. Prohibition is out of the question because this genie is already out of the bottle. Insurance (Spar calls this option the “hip replacement model”) would be difficult to extend to all of the suppliers already in place. That leaves Regulation.

At this point Spar chickens out on any specific recommendations but suggests five general principles which could form the basis for what she believes must be resolved by a political debate.

1- Expanded access to information by consumers
2- Equitable distribution of benefits
3- Some version of legal property rights
4- Recognition of the cost impact on society
5- Definition of the extent of parental rights

After Dolly

The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning

By Ian Wilmut & Roger Highfield
W.W. Norton & Company, 2006

Reviewed by PHL

Reviews of Ian Wilmut’s book, After Dolly, miss what I believe is its most important characteristic. The book is essentially two different compositions. The first of these parts is a superb narrative of the creation of Dolly the sheep which is then loosely integrated with the second part, a naive or perhaps single-minded defense of further research on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Concealed in this loose integration is the clear but unintended message that the research which Ian Wilmut so passionately advocates can be accomplished by means that do not involve the killing of embryonic human beings.

The narrative covers both the detailed research work which resulted in Dolly as well as the background leading up to that work. Wilmut has done a superb job in describing this exquisitely complex task in a highly readable style (no high tech jargon, no distracting footnotes, real people). The narrative illustrates the grinding, repetitive, work involved in this kind of research as well as the random insertion of flashes of genius and the critical importance of the worldwide, often informal, links among the scientists. He provides generous recognition to his predecessors and collaborators.

Perhaps most importantly for that hidden message Wilmut’s narrative points out the value of research on animal embryology because of the genetic similarity between animals and humans.

Wilmut’s disputation on future research on human embryology is more of a random walk through a variety of the arguments for and against such work. While Wilmut is a staunch supporter of this research, and properly so, his arguments are often morally naive (“Do the ends – new treatments for horrific diseases – always justify the means?” page 34), contain a number of misstatements or unawareness of facts (“In the United States, under President George W. Bush, federal funding was withdrawn from studies with human embryos ---“ page 199) , and are often self contradicting (“No matter how slippery the slope, it is easy to draw a well defined line on it—“ page 220,”However laws forbid; they do not always prevent.” page 224).

More importantly he gives little attention to other forms of human stem cells (“ -side-by-side comparison of adult and embryonic varieties of stem cells must be done—“ page 166) They have been done. ASCs beat ESCs 72 to 0 in the last such comparison.

In spite of the weakness of Wilmut’s arguments he presents more than sufficient grounds to justify proceeding with research in this area of biotech albeit with more societal controls than implied by Wilmut. His narrative section not only establishes clearly the advances which can be accomplished by dedicated researchers but it also establishes the existence of a vast chasm of missing knowledge. In animal research he and others developed alternative paths or ‘workarounds’ for these gaps. In human research such workarounds would be unacceptable.

Wilmut’s objectives, the unarguably valuable search for improving human health, can be achieved by continuing with the discovery power of animal research so dramatically demonstrated in his narrative of the Dolly achievement and by research on adult and other forms of human stem cells which do not involve the killing of human embryos.


‘Abortion: A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and the Unborn’

Marybeth T. Hagan; Liguori, 128 pp

Reviewed by Susan Brinkmann
CS&T Correspondent

Millions of women can relate to the “process” this Germantown native went through before coming to grips with the explosive issue of abortion.

“The disconnect between what I witnessed among friends and what I read in the media about abortion added to my ambivalence and left me sitting on the fence that divides Americans over the issue,” writes Marybeth T. Hagan in her new book, “Abortion: A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and the Unborn.”

“My dismount was a slow one. My fuzziness about abortion took almost 30 years for me to shake.”

Just like millions of other women, Hagan grew up in Catholic schools, went to college for a few years, and met and married the wrong guy before she met and married the right one. Although there were always questions about abortion humming around at the back of her mind, she didn’t feel a need to confront them.

Until she got pregnant.

“I started to feel the child within me, from the first trimester flutters to the second trimester kicks and the elbows,” she said. “When you feel the baby inside, how can you deny that this is life?”
Little did she know, a process had begun — a process that would lead to the end of her comfortable ambivalence about a subject that has been tearing the country apart for 32 years.

At first, it began on an emotional level with the natural sense of wonder and amazement — a new mother’s experience.

When she was 11-weeks pregnant with her second child, she had her first ultrasound.

“What a revelation! I can still picture lying on the table and looking at the screen and the thrill of seeing my daughter. In the very next instant, out of nowhere, came the thought that babies like that were being aborted every day. The thought just clobbered me.”

When she was 40, she found out she was pregnant again, but this child was an angel not meant for earth. The pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

“That shocked me because I had always had healthy pregnancies,” she said. “But as a person of faith, I accepted the miscarriage as God’s will.”

The pain of that tragic episode in her life hid itself beneath the needs and demands of her other children. But, five years later, while driving by a local school while a teacher was leading a column of kindergartners into school, it all came back.

“Out of nowhere, I remembered the baby that I lost and realized that my baby would have been starting kindergarten. I grew very, very upset and had to turn around and go home. It really threw me. It came out of nowhere. But when all this grief came out five years later, I started to wonder about all those women who had abortions. I thought, ‘Gee, if I feel this way, surely there are women who suffer in some way after abortion.’”

She turned out to be right, about that, and a lot of other truths about abortion that she learned first by instinct, and then by careful study. After returning to Temple to complete a degree in journalism, she wrote down her thoughts about the issue.

“Before I knew it, I had three chapters of this book written, but the three chapters were all the emotional stuff. I knew I had to back it up with some facts. That’s when I started to do the research.”

What she uncovered was a consistent pattern of deception by leaders of the feminist movement that underlies almost every facet of the abortion issue.

For example, she writes, almost no one questions the sound bites about how abortion is necessary to protect a woman’s health, when “almost all — 1,506,770 — representing 99.31 percent of the average annual number of 1,517,290 abortions performed each year in the United States … were ‘non-therapeutic’or ‘lifestyle’ abortions.”

The need for an exemption for rape and incest is another part of the issue she found to be more hysteria than fact.

“Researchers examined the outcomes of 155,000 forcible rapes. The combined results of their studies revealed that ‘one out of 1,238 rapes results in pregnancy,’ which tallies to 0.08 percent or about one-twelfth of one-percent.’”

An even greater distortion was advanced by the media about pro-life advocates.

“Anything I read about the anti-abortion crowd was about people who were what I call ‘lunatics for life’ — people who were going into clinics and hurting or killing people,”

Hagan said. “Most of what I read … in the press was about people like this, which created a pro-life stereotype.”

She decided to see for herself and began attending pro-life functions. What she found weren’t angry people. “Overwhelmingly, they were people who were sad because of the babies and not angry like the people I had been reading about.”

Her first political protest, the March for Life on Jan. 22, 2003, opened her eyes to the way the media can feed deception and keep it alive.

The Associated Press and other outlets made it seem as if both sides of the issue were in equal attendance that day at the March, but this is not what Hagan saw on her way to the Supreme Court building.

“I did not see one person bearing a banner in favor of abortion,” she writes. Of the 200,000 people in the streets that day, she saw about 20 who supported abortion rights.

She began to find holes in the pro-abortion story everywhere she looked — especially surrounding serious issues such as a woman’s right to know all the facts about abortion and new research about fetal pain.

“Planned Parenthood’s tactic of shushing outcries with gibberish” showed the organization’s “hollowness where there should be heart,” Hagan wrote.

In one of the most chilling chapters in her book, she describes a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the shocking similarities noticed between Hitler’s atrocities and those taking place today behind today’s sterilized rhetoric of “choice:”

“Children were the first to be terminated by gas at [the] Auschwitz concentration camp. … These murdered children’s remains became abused corpses when their cadavers were deemed desirable for genetic research aimed at disease control. … More than 1.5 million developing children deemed undesirable in the U.S. have been aborted each year from 1980 to 2000. … The remains of these aborted embryos and fetuses’ bodies become abused corpses when their cadavers are deemed desirable for genetic research.”

Her book is a quick, hard-hitting read, with short chapters filled with everyday emotions and plenty of cold, hard facts to back them up. It’s the perfect book for fence-sitters who can’t be swayed by long, moralizing screeds.

“We’re so busy today. We’re good, fine people but we live in an age where we don’t have much time to contemplate,” Hagan says. “It worries me with this issue of life and death that people don’t take the time to think about what we’re doing to ourselves with abortion as a nation.

“My hope is that this book will help people to stop and take a little time to think about it, and really look into their hearts.”


Pro-Life 101:  A Guide to Making your Case Persuasively

By:  Scott Klusendorf

Reviewed by Anita Nardone

With close to nine years under my belt as a speaker for PHL, I have always felt that there is not one presentation that I have given that I didn’t think afterward could have been improved in some way!  I am either a complete Type A personality…or consumed with a passionate quest to find just the right words to answer a question or re-buff an argument!  Probably both!

As a Christmas gift last year, my husband put the above-mentioned book in my stocking with a note that said “…even a pro can use some help sometimes!...”.  I would hardly consider myself a “pro” but I was intrigued by the title and the small size of the booklet.  (Small books have become much more attractive in a busy life!)

I would HIGHLY recommend this book by Scott Klusendorf to anyone at all interested in the pro-life movement---but especially to those who may feel called to speak about it for three reasons:

1.  While many times we feel intimidated by the complex moral and philosophical questions regarding abortion, Klusendorf masterfully helps one to break it down to the most basic and profound issues and helps a speaker to stick to a point.  As he states in Chapter One:”…Why there is only one question to resolve, not many…”.  He gives the reader the confidence to speak without the fear that he/she is not a master of all possible subjects that abortion entails.

2.  Organizationally, the book is very easy to read.  The outline format draws you in easily to his points and the topics are covered in a very succinct manner.  It also is a book that the reader can ‘skip around’ and come back to sections needing re-review.  His language is direct, humorous and makes no apologies for not being politically correct.  One comes away from reading it with a feeling, ‘…it really is that simple’.

3. The book gives very practical tips on dealing with timed presentations, reactions to common objections and dealing with nasty and negative moderators, audience members, etc.  He helps address the very delicate art of asking to give a presentation in the first place.  His references are very good.

In summary, Pro-Life 101 is a wonderful resource that inspires confidence in the reader that defending the pro-life position is not an overwhelming task but one that can be mastered with common sense, compassion and conviction.



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