Comments: "UNESCO Develops Universal Norms in Bioethics, Women Under-Represented"

Irving News Comments
copyright January 27, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

In the article below, Kathryn Hinsch of the Women's Bioethics Project (Seattle, Washington), boldly belies the reality of "Feminist Bioethics" which has played such a major role in the "birth" and international propagation of bioethics and its "ethical" principles from the beginning of the field in 1978 (the Belmont Report). How can she, with any credibility, claim that "women are under-represented" in bioethics on any level?

For many decades now Feminist Bioethics has been a clearly designated and dedicated "section" at bioethics conferences around the world, and in college and university textbooks. These feminist leaders have consistently been placed on major national and international "committees" determining the entire range of bioethics issues -- from abortion and euthanasia, to cloning and other genetic engineering directives. These Feminist Bioethicists have long been noted for harshly forcing those bioethics principles that they arbitrarily identify with on decades of corrupt legislation -- especially an absolutized principle of "autonomy".

It is hardly the "voice of women" that is under-represented at the UNESCO table, but rather the "voice of the vulnerable" -- the most vulnerable human members of the national and international communities -- e.g., the unborn (both in vivo and in vitro), the elderly, the mentally ill and retarded, the terminally ill, the physically handicapped, etc. The arbitrary bioethics principles of "autonomy", "justice", and "beneficence" (as defined in the Belmont Report) systematically deny human dignity and human rights to these most vulnerable of human beings who are not "autonomous" -- a fact especially blatantly obvious in the Feminist Bioethics literature. So why do we now have this apparent indignant statement by Kathryn Hinsch of the Women's Bioethics Project that women are under-represented?

On close inspection the answer is clearly provided within the context of this short article itself. What we are simply witnessing is the Feminist Bioethicists' dutiful alignment with those promoting the other Bioethics agendas: "care of the young, the old, and the sick of the world" (read parental restrictions, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, removal of food and hydration, allocation of scarce medical resources); "women's access to healthcare, including prenatal care" (read abortion, use of abortifacients, IVF "treatments" which include implantation of cloned and genetically engineered embryos); "stem-cell research" (read cloning and other genetic engineering reproductive techniques); "egg donations" (required for such "research" and "treatments"); legal distinctions between "a gestational mother, and a social mother" (read legal custody); new discoveries in genetics, pharmacology, and assisted reproductive technologies that "will soon allow us to modify ourselves and our children in ways never before possible" (read eugenics). When will these Feminists ever learn to be truly independent from Bioethics which is making such a mockery of their true beliefs, their integrity and their credibility? When will they realize that they are simply being used by Bioethics (mostly men) to advance all of these anti-women and anti-family policies?

More than ever it is critical that "bioethics" be fully understood, evaluated for what it really is, and confronted -- on both the national and the international levels. "Universal Bioethics Norms", created out of thin air by a "consensus" of only those selected elites who agree with such depraved "ethical principles" to begin with, would truly be a disaster if turned into "universal norms" of international law. There is nothing "universal", "neutral", or "ethical" about them. See, e.g., Irving, "What is 'bioethics'?", at: (short) "The bioethics mess", Crisis Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 5, May 2001, at:; and (long) "What is 'bioethics'?", at:,, and -- DNI]

UNESCO Develops Universal Norms in Bioethics, Women Under-Represented

PARIS, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Bioethics Committee (IBC) is meeting in Paris to set international standards on bioethics. While these standards have the potential to enhance the health and well-being of all people, the committee membership is almost exclusively male. Representing more than half the global population, a disproportionate number of the world's vulnerable people, and the traditional caregivers of all generations, women have a special stake in bioethical issues.

The IBC is composed of 36 bioethics experts, each from a different country, appointed by the UNESCO Director-General. Alarmingly, 80 percent of the committee members are men. The sole expert from the U.S. is a male conservative Catholic physician. UNESCO, which has long described itself as the "moral conscience" of the U.N., has an established pattern of giving limited airtime to women's perspectives in its ethics policy proceedings.

"While the committee surely intends no harm to women, men cannot represent the entire range of human experience. The notion that a universal set of bioethical norms endorsed by the nations of the world will be the product of a male-dominated process is absurd," notes Kathryn Hinsch, founder of the Women's Bioethics Project, a Seattle-based think tank. "Although the current IBC draft Declaration on Universal Norms on Bioethics does not overtly discriminate against women, it does not reflect the disproportionate ways in which bioethical issues affect women, and thus discriminates by omission."

Hinsch continues, "The draft declaration ignores the realities of women's lives. It is most often women who take care of the young, the old, and the sick of the world. Relative to men, women are politically disenfranchised and economically dependent. Women's access to healthcare, including prenatal care, is subject to outside control in a way that men's is not. History shows that women's participation in the political process is what brings such issues to light. It is therefore vital that more women have a place at the IBC table."

According to Dr. Mary C. Rawlinson, a philosopher from Stony Brook University who is observing the bioethics sessions in Paris, "Gender continues to be ignored in bioethics. In developing a statement of human rights, one can't just extrapolate from male experience. Thinking about the specificities of women's lives would lead to a more complete articulation of human rights."

Dr. Dafna Feinholz, of Mexico's National Commission of Bioethics, comments, "Gender is not a special-interest category. It is a very sensible indicator and one that summarizes many other inequities (e.g., 70 percent of the world's poor are women, and the highest rates of illiteracy are among women). When gender inequities are addressed, many other inequities are addressed as well."

Bioethics can no longer be dismissed as the stuff of science fiction. Debate about bioethical questions is under way in academia, in the political arena, and within religious communities. Policy makers and voters are addressing bioethics questions when they consider whether to fund stem-cell research. Courts are facing bioethics questions when they consider which of three "parents" -- an egg donor, a gestational mother, and a social mother -- should receive custody of a child. The media cover these issues with emotionally charged, ideologically driven sound bites that fail to educate the public. Meanwhile, despite the clamor in nearly every one of these settings, women's voices are under-represented.

New discoveries in genetics, pharmacology, and assisted reproductive technologies will soon allow us to modify ourselves and our children in ways never before possible. With these advances come profound questions about what it means to be human and what kind of future world we want to live in. Hinsch notes, "Without a voice in shaping the legislation and policies that affect their lives, women will have to contest potentially dire consequences after the fact. We must be vigilant about creating policies that are thoughtfully drafted by-and for-all people."