Friday, June 11, 2010

Women's Bioethics Project Closes

Dear Friends,
We launched the Women’s Bioethics Project six years ago. With your support, we developed innovative programs, policy recommendations and research on ethical issues pertaining to women’s health, reproductive technologies, and neuroethics. We made a difference: our work brought these important issues to new audiences and encouraged women to participate in policy development around bioethics questions. Please take a look at the “Report to the Board” highlighting some of the key activities we accomplished together. I sincerely appreciate the time, talent, and financial resources you have contributed to make our effort a success. Thank you.

We now have an extraordinary opportunity to take our work to the next level. As Craig Venter and his colleagues create "the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer," and Lee Hood's team completes the first family genome study, we are entering a new and very exciting era in biology and medicine. Simultaneously, bioethical issues are showing up with increasing frequency in film, television and literature.

Million Dollar Baby dealt with euthanasia and the right to die; The Constant Gardener with informed consent and drug trials in developing countries; The Island with human clones for replacement parts; Gattaca with genetic engineering; The Sixth Day with cloning; Minority Report with neuroengineering; and Bicentennial Man with artificial intelligence. Popular television programs such as Law and Order, House, Grey’s Anatomy and CSI Miami have tackled issues from informed consent to genetic testing. In literature, Margaret Atwood showed us the perils of bio-engineering in Oryx & Crake, Kazuo Ishiguro focused on cloning in Never Let Me Go, Michael Crichton dealt with genetics in Next, and Jodi Picoult took on savior siblings in My Sister’s Keeper (now a movie too.) Not since the early days of space exploration have we seen the general public’s interest in science and ethics-related issues so piqued.

Most of the recent works in this vein focus on the perils rather than the promise of biotechnology, and it is these perils that conservatives use to promote their agenda. These aren’t just talking points: conservative bioethics centers have made popular movies and books major vehicles for their message. Yet filmmakers, television producers and authors are not intentionally driving a conservative bioethics agenda; rather, they are merely creating compelling story lines with strong narrative tension. What would happen if more of these story lines incorporated a progressive viewpoint? There’s an enormous opportunity to expose the progressive side of bioethics through popular media if we can help find and cultivate the material.

We need ways to reach people outside of the academic and policy realms. Leveraging the power of popular culture is a compelling strategy that engages the public in a visceral and dramatic way. Many emerging technologies and ideas were unimaginable until recently. Genetic testing, designer babies, radical life extension, and neural imaging, to name just a few, are still in their infancy. And there is a great opportunity for determining how these issues are framed in the public mind. Policy will follow public opinion, so we must ensure progressive values are part of the national conversation.

It is time to take our work to the next level: influencing popular culture. This new focus is an evolution and extension of our original vision. We are in the initial planning stages of this next great adventure. If you are interested in being involved, follow me on Twitter @khinsch or contact me directly.

The Women’s Bioethics Project has been a wonderful experience. We are grateful for the many accomplished people who gave generously of their time and talent; the influential organizations that partnered with us; and the visionary, generous donors who took a chance on a big concept that few have tried. However, addressing the new cultural challenge requires a new organization with a less specific focus than a public policy think-tank. As a result, the Women’s Bioethics Project will close its doors on June 11, 2010.

I look forward to keeping in touch with each of you. Thanks for all you have done to move this critical agenda forward.

Kathryn Hinsch
Founder/Board President
khinsch (at)

[Note from the Editor:  Likewise, the Women's Bioethics Blog willing be shutting down shortly.   I will continue to post periodically over the IEET blog, and plan to continue working on my book. 

I'd like to thank all the bloggers for their efforts over the years, and I thank all of our loyal readers for their support.  I wish you all a fond farewell, but not goodbye -- until we meet again in cyberspace or some other realm.  With great appreciation, Linda MacDonald Glenn]


Kelly Hills said...

I have to say, I'm sorry to hear this. I think there's definitely still a strong need for a feminist voice in bioethics; hopefully someone else will take up the mantle.

As you know, I've always been deeply interested in bioethics and pop culture, to the point of writing pretty extensively about it (I guess I get to pat myself on the back for looking into it before it was the new thing, heh). I'll definitely be interested to see where you go with this!

Dana Waring said...

I have really enjoyed the insights and topics you've tackled over the years on this blog. Good luck on whatever comes next!

Asma said...

I am sad to see this important blog shut down. This is truly a legacy and there are issues in the middle east that women still face abuse.

I am looking forward to reading your book.


SabrinaW said...

This has been a great opportunity for amazing people to get together to discuss ideas on bioethics. Even though I too am sad to see this go, I hope that we can all be inspired to continue these discussions while looking ahead to new projects where we can all grow and learn.

judith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caverta said...

I loved this project.. its really a site where women's issues are put in front of people to get attention..

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Manipal Stan said...

I have really enjoyed the insights and topics you've tackled over the years on this blog. Good luck on whatever comes next. Best Of Luck. Keep your chin up.

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