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Leftover People

Facebook strikes me as an inappropriate place to peddle human beings. Embryo-Americans should be entitled the same rights that we all are in the United State: the 13th amendment prohibits the trafficking of human persons. Scientifically speaking there is no difference between the life of an embryo and the life of a full grown adult. No substantial change is needed. Just time and the essentials of life that all human beings need.

A long-read from the New York Times highlights in great detail the vexing question, “What to do with embryos?” This is not the same as adoption. The children conceived in the laboratory are second-class, non-citizens from the very beginning: “Couples are generally glad to have the leftover embryos, backups in case a pregnancy does not result from the first tries.” Physically speaking, these very young children are no different than the rest of us, walking and talking former embryos. All they need is a nurturing environment and they will grow to be full, healthy human beings. But for now, they’re just “backups” and “leftovers.”

In any conversation about these decisions, the greatest compassion and mercy must be shown to those families who decide to conceive out of the natural act of procreation. But we owe it to them, the medical professionals, and the little humans themselves to point out what is demonstrable by scientific evidence and reason: embryonic human beings are human beings.

Those who have custody over them may have “wrenching” decisions, but the options they can choose are startling: “Most people grapple among these choices: using them to have more babies; thawing and disposing of them; donating them for research; or, like the Wattses, giving them to another family.” Imagine if this line were written about a child who was a mere nine months older than the embryonic children. I don’t think most people think that offering fellow human beings up for research or disposal are humane or legal options.

This Brave New World language of “disposing” should cause anyone to shudder. We are now a culture that allows embryonic humans to be disposed of because they are betas instead of alphas. We are beyond slippery-slope arguments; we have slipped down the slope already. The only discussion now is if we want to stay down in the mire of dehumanization or try to climb back up.

Not only are couples trying to conceive out of the sexual act, but now, profiteers for the low, low price of $12,500 are legally selling three tries at a designer baby, with a money back guarantee.

The clinic buys eggs and sperm from donors whose profiles are likely to have broad appeal — like those who are tall, thin and well educated — then combines them to make embryos that are doled out to three or four families. Both the donors and the would-be parents know the embryos will be used by multiple families.

The article goes on to examine the legal status of these smallest of children. It is surprising that the usage of “contract” and “property” doesn’t set off alarm bells, reminding people of another time in American history when that language was applied to human beings. The sins against the men of the past are being combined with the technology of the present age to expand the possibilities of exploitation to unimaginable numbers of human beings. Will there one day be a class of people bred in a lab to serve as a working class? Modern intuitive ethics can not consistently condemn this more than they can condemn the commodification of the embryonic human person in its generation and destruction.

Although the effect of artificial embryonic conception can be a beautiful, bouncing, baby, the baby does not justify how it was conceived, nor how many of its siblings did not live to see the light of day. The fears of yesterday that a test-tube baby would be a monster are now rightly seen as false. However, the danger is not so much that the baby will turn into something less than human, but that the process itself dehumanizes all those who participate in it.

There is a light at the end of this terrifying tunnel, though. “Many couples see their embryos as virtual children, fertility doctors say, and the numbers willing to give them to another family are increasing.” It is comforting to know that people are beginning to see that their embryos are not things but persons, humans that differ from us only in stage of development. As we try to come up out of this dark place, the lessons of history show the blindness of certain ages to the humanity and dignity different classes of human beings. May we have eye to see the dignity of the embryonic person.

 

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