Friday, June 30, 2006

The fate of frozen embryos

Ross Douhat has directed me to a long article in Mother Jones on frozen human embryos created by in-vitro fertilization. The article is in Mother Jones so it obviously is going to have factual failings like the false pre-embryo assertion ("a fertilized egg is not considered an embryo until about two weeks of development") but it takes a fairly open approach to discussing the interesting topic of how IVF parents view their frozen embryonic children and how they struggle to decide what to do with these children.

What I find intriguing is how pro-choicers who use the bodily autonomy argument ("even if the unborn are human beings, women should still be allowed to have abortions because they should be able to control what happens in their bodies") to argue in favor of legal abortion approach the issue of frozen human embryos. Without the woman's womb to hide behind, how will those in favor of abortion rights based on the bodily autonomy argument defend the intentional killing of human beings who aren't currently in a woman's body? Will they fall back on dehumanizing the human embryo or will they accept the humanity of the embryos and work to protect them and bring them to birth?

One woman in the story seemed to take an approach I've often seen from women who have abortions:
"Little lives, that's how I thought about them," said one woman. "But you have to switch gears and think, ‘They're not lives, they're cells. They're science.' That's kind of what I had to switch to."
In other words, use the power of the human mind to deceive yourself.

Other pro-choice women defend their embryonic children.
They ardently wish for them to grow into children. The experience can be transforming: “I was like, ‘I created these things, I feel a sense of responsibility for them,’” is how one ivf patient put it. Describing herself as staunchly pro-choice, this patient found that she could not rest until she located a person—actually, two people—willing to bring her excess embryos to term.

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