[recorded for NPR “Morning Edition” December 2003; postponed to wait for a “news hook,” eventually lost in a system crash]When reports of human cloning first began appearing in the news, a lot of us had the initial reaction, “You're kidding, right?” They weren't kidding. This bizarre field of medical research is rarin' to go. We don't have much time to consider the question: should it? The idea of a full-grown human clone is creepy enough, but what about cloning for medical purposes--making an embryo with a patient's cells, then killing it to use in the patient's treatment? Even here we know instinctively that something's wrong. We know it isn't right to mix up a baby in a test tube and then, when it starts growing, chop it up for medicine. It isn't right to make medicine out of people.
[NPR, “Morning Edition,” January 22, 2003] Thirty years ago, when I was an idealistic college student, I volunteered at a feminist newspaper called “off our backs.” The Roe v Wade decision happened the first month I worked there. Our editorial said it didn't go far enough, because Roe requires a woman to have medical reason for abortion in the third trimester. I thought abortion rights were going to liberate women.
[NPR, Morning Edition, May 3, 2002] Every couple of years this happens. It's like living in the Twilight Zone. For weeks, everywhere I went, there were fluffy chicks and bunny-baskets, and the grocery store was stacked with bags of pastel M & Ms. It was all about Easter--and now it's done. But not for me.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” May 20, 1997] I've walked a hundred miles in another woman's shoes, and I don' t even know her name. I've ironed her blouse, hemmed her skirt, and carried her handbag. She's not one person, but a composite of dozens, women of all ages and races and creed. But there is one thing they all had in common: they were all mostly my size.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” November 5, 1997] Jesus is lying on his side on my dining room floor, leaning against the radiator, balanced up on one finger and one toe like a gymnast. He is flattened, just a sheet of painted wood, and from pointed toe to the tip of his halo he is about four and a half feet tall. For protection, for storage, Jesus is swathed in a blue tablecloth that has been knotted around his ankles and pulled up over his head. When I push it aside I can see his form, a crucified body without a cross. His extended arms are like the wings of a bird; he floats in sorrow, head sunk toward one shoulder, eyes shut, face washed with death.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” November 18, 1997]What will life be like in the 21st century? A recent survey by Maricopa Research discovered that 31% of respondents, almost a third, believe that scientists will invent a way to beam people back and forth, like Scottie does on “Star Trek.” On the other hand, less than half that figure, only 15%, believe that in the next century we’ll find a way to end political corruption.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” May 8, 1996]On the issue of abortion, I’ve been around the block. At one point, I believed that abortion was necessary to set women free from the burden of unplanned pregnancy. But gradually I changed; I realized that abortion is at root an act of violence, killing children and violating women’s bodies--and their hearts. As such, I couldn’t accept it as a legitimate way of solving social problems. Unnecessary surgery that kills your own child is a cheap substitute for providing women with life-affirming alternatives. But perhaps because I’d been on both sides of this issue, I still had sympathy for my pro-choice friends.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” January 21, 1998] A recurring question in the abortion debate has been whether the fetus meets the definition of “person.” Why should this be relevant? What advantage is it to be a person? What does a person get? At the most basic level, persons get protected from violence. Not all persons are allowed to drive or to vote, but every person is allowed to call the cops if someone tries to beat them up. There are probably many laws that are unnecessary or foolish, but the irreducible minimum are those laws that protect persons from violence--that prevent the larger and stronger from crushing the smaller and weaker. Laws against violence even the odds, replacing an older and more instinctive law of “might makes right.”
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” July 12, 1996] Someone somewhere is sitting in a car. She's just left the office and is trying to get home, but the traffic is backed into a snarl.The setting sun cuts through the windshield, steaming the car and wilting the collar of her blouse. It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be another, all summer, all winter, year after year.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 31, 1997] I don't think I want personal advice from gas pumps. The other day, while standing at a self-serve pump, I heard the machine give a peremptory beep. I turned around and, in the tiny screen that usually offers specials on soft drinks, this message was reeling by: “Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm...” I was moved to some affirmations that weren't all that silent.