September 19, 2006

'Stem Cell Wars:' The Moral Status of the Embryo

Eve Herold's Q&A points out effectively that the debate over embryo-destructive research is, indeed, all about the moral status of the embryo.

So they’ve also had a long-term strategy: to focus on defining the fetus at any stage as a person. Obviously, taking the life of a person is considered murder, and if the fetus could be legally defined as a person, abortion would have to become illegal. At the same time, new technologies were pushing the envelope. The RU 486 pill, which came along in the late 1980s, could terminate a very early pregnancy, so anti-abortion groups adapted their language to include protection of the embryo.

Meanwhile, the emergence of in-vitro fertilization threw everyone a curve ball. All of a sudden you had embryos existing outside of a woman’s body, where no pregnancy could be said to exist. But right-to-life groups had already become entrenched with an absolutist view of the embryo—that it is just as fully human, and has exactly the same rights, as you or me.

So is human-hood dependent on pregnancy? I have always understood that what distinguishes a human from other species is genetics, not geography.


Rebecca said...

People always ask me on what grounds do I assert that an embryo is a human being. I always reply: an embryo is a complete human organism and it is alive and therefore has "being" and so is a human being. What else would it be? They also ask me how can I prove an embryo is a human being, and I ask how they can prove that it is not.

It seems to me that the burden of proof lies with Ms. Herold that embryos are not "fully human" and therefore subject to experimentation.

Sarah J. Flashing said...

Even Herold concedes that embryos can have parents, so there is some serious confusion out there.