Tuesday, December 21, 2010

USCCB Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines - Part 2: Protecting Human Life

First Ultrasound of My Daughter, Adele (9 weeks)

The first of the 6 areas covered by the investment policies of the USCCB is "Protecting Human Life".  Needless to say, human life is precious, and as investors, we must ensure that our investments go towards companies that protect human life.  Sometimes it is difficult to find a business that directly promotes the protection of life, but at the very least, they should not contribute to the destruction of human life!

The 3 sub-categories under this area are:

  1. Abortion
  2. Contraceptives
  3. Embryonic Stem Cell / Human Cloning
Abortion
There are many people who do not believe abortion is morally wrong.  This blog is not the place to argue against that notion.  I will assume that you agree with me that abortion is gravely evil.  The USCCB uses an absolute exclusion approach (i.e. does not invest in these companies at all) towards investing in companies that have direct participation in or support of abortion.  Direction participation "may include, but not be limited to, companies involved in the manufacture of abortifacients and publicly held health-care companies that perform abortions when not absolutely required by federal or state law."

Anytime you are interested in a pharmaceutical company or a health-care provider, you should look into whether they participate in the above.  Many large pharmaceuticals manufacture abortifacients (drugs that induce abortions).  They include Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Teva, Watson, etc.

Contraceptives
Contraceptives include any artificial means of preventing pregnancy from occurring.  They may include condoms, oral contraceptives, vasectomies, sterilization, skin patches, diaphragms, etc.  As you can see, this category is much broader than abortifacients.  You can bet there are many more companies involved with manufacturing contraceptives.

The USCCB will not invest in companies that manufacture these products, and more importantly, even those who generate significant revenue from sales of these products (even if they don't manufacture them).  So, think drug stores like Rite Aid and CVS in the US and Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharma Plus in Canada.  Sales of condoms and other contraceptives probably don't amount to a large portion of these drug stores' revenues, but do keep in mind they are selling these products.  There are probably thousands of other companies which are not, in any way, connected to production or sales of contraceptives.  So why go there in the first place?

Embryonic Stem Cell / Human Cloning
Embryonic stem cell and human cloning are no longer the stuff of science fiction.  They are very real and we must be vigilant in our investing choices.  I would also put in-vitro fertilization under this category as well.  Companies that take part in these activities do not respect the dignity of human life.  They treat human embryos as objects for manipulation.  Companies like Geron and BioTransplant engage in embryonic stem cell research.  Anytime you're looking at biotech companies, make sure they are free of these activities.

Conclusion
As I have said before, I try to avoid all pharmaceutical and biotech companies because it is almost impossible to fully figure out whether all of their products and services do not violate the dignity of human life.  It does eliminate a large number of potential companies, but the USCCB did not put the human life category first for no reason.  They probably believe that this is the area of greatest concern, and I would tend to agree.  If we do not respect human life itself, how are we to expected to behave morally in other circumstances?  Protecting human life should be the first thing that comes to mind when evaluating a company's worthiness!