Free Speech or Censorship in the Public Square?

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on April 9, 2015

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On Saturday, April 11, CBC President Jennifer Lahl is slated to speak on the ethics of third party reproduction at Stanford University’s Anscombe Society’s second annual Facing History conference. She has been invited to speak on the ethics of third party reproduction, which is a fitting part of a discussion on the sexual revolution as the decoupling of sex and procreation was a key aspect of the development of the birth control pill and of assisted reproductive technologies. As one saying goes, “the Pill allowed us to have sex without making babies, and assisted reproductive technologies allow us to make babies without having sex.”

Carl Djerassi, a Stanford professor and “father of the Pill,” recently claimed that soon lovemaking will just be for fun; babies will be made in the laboratory. Sounds like a sexual revolution!

Over the past few years, Jennifer has given similar talks on over twenty-five college and university campuses, and to countless other groups throughout the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, the Anscombe Society has recently come under attack from various constituencies attempting to label this event as “promoting hate speech.” The specific complaint lodged against Jennifer was:

Jennifer Lahl, RN; member of the Ruth Institute which supports “marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman,” among anti-feminist and anti-LGBT messages. She is attempting to outlaw surrogacy, and in this article compares egg donation to human trafficking.

Jennifer Roback-Morse, president of the Ruth Institute, commented, “I didn’t know you were a member of The Ruth Institute. I didn’t know we had members!”

Many who follow the work of the CBC know that we work well with many feminists groups who share our views on third-party reproduction, and who are concerned about the use of assisted reproductive technologies for anyone, no matter their sexual preference. In addition, many around the world equate surrogacy and egg donation with human trafficking and thus seek to outlaw surrogacy.

Ms. Lahl was even invited to speak on the matter of human egg trafficking at the European Parliament in Brussels. Shortly thereafter the European Union passed a resolution on the trade of human eggs stating that they condemn all trafficking in the human body and its parts.

As the Anscombe leaders enumerate on their website, this event will bring together world-renowned philosophers, scientists, and medical professionals to have an open and honest conversation about various aspects of the sexual revolution. Jennifer’s presentation will focus on the many untold harms of egg and sperm donation and surrogacy. It will be undergirded with latest medical and social science available, as all of her talks are.

One would hope that on a university campus—which should be defined by the free exchange of ideas—such an address would be welcomed rather than silenced.

However, as Anscombe Society co-president Elisa Figueroa said, “This appears to set an unfortunate precedent that gives any group of students or faculty a heckler’s veto concerning what opinions may be expressed on campus.”

Here at the CBC we’re used to powerful forces, such as those involved in the big business of infertility, trying to silence our work. We applaud the Anscombe Society for not allowing controversy to shutter their event, and are happy to do our part to speak to any organization willing to give a platform to our issues.

Let us hope for a great event this weekend in the spirit of free speech, civil discourse and the ability to think in new and fresh ways.

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