Killing Embryos

Most arguments against cloning are really arguments against something entirely different than cloning.

For instance an argument that says cloning is wrong because it kills embryos is not an objection to cloning but to any process that ends in the death of undifferentiated cells.

Consider: does the opponent also oppose certain forms of birth control such as the birth control coil and the morning after pill? These devises allow the embryo to begin dividing but prevent it from attaching to the uterine wall within the first 5 to 7 days. The medical definition of when a pregnancy begins is the day the embryo attaches to the uterus therefore if an embryo does not attach there is no pregnancy. Is the death of such an embryo tragic?

If not, why not? It is the same embryo whether it is in a Petri dish or in a fallopian tube. If it doesn�t attach then it doesn�t attach. The outcome is the same, no pregnancy.

However if the opponent says it is tragic then, what about the couple who are trying to naturally conceive? What if the woman takes a home pregnancy test the next day? Home pregnancy tests warn users not to take the test early because they can get a false positive. But why should the test show positive at all? Was she pregnant or not?

Well, what happens is the sperm fertilizes the egg in the fallopian tube. Conception has occurred.

The fertilized embryo starts to secret human growth hormones automatically. It is the presence of these growth hormones that these kits tests detect. However, the embryo isn�t done. It has to travels down the fallopian tube until it reaches the uterus. This can take 3 to 7 days. If the embryo attaches to the uterus it starts a pregnancy. If it does not attach for any reason, if it lands in the wrong place, if it has chromosomal damages, etc, then it will die. Remains of the embryo will flush out of a woman�s body with her next menstrual flow.

Since no birth control method is 100% effective, any sexually active woman could be voiding a conceived embryo every month. Is every menstrual flow evidence of a possible murder? 

Or is it part of nature�s plan? A safety net that prevents damaged embryos from developing any further?

If any embryo dies in a Petri dish, or when surgically implanted, is this evidence that this particular embryo would have lived if only it have been conceived naturally?

Or does it mean instead that this particular embryo was imperfect in some way and was slated to die regardless of its location? Are we now seeing in the Petri dish all those failed conceived embryo�s that flush out naturally from a woman�s body every month?

Not all married couples get pregnant on their first try. Sometimes it can take months of diligently timed effort before a woman becomes pregnant. So what is natural fertility? Any doctor will tell you that the medical definition of being fertile is if a couple conceives within 12 months of trying. In other words a perfectly normal couple can have as many as 11 failed embryos for every successful child they have.

That means it is normal for 11 out of 12 natural embryos to die. That is a 91% failure rate for natural embryos today.

Any guess on what is the failure rate is for cloned embryos? Why should we expect cloned embryo�s to survive at a higher rate than we expect natural embryos to?

Because we can see a cloned embryo in a Petri dish but we don�t ordinarily see the natural embryo inside a woman�s fallopian tube. It is the same embryo. Yet we bemoan the demise of one but not the other.

So is it really the embryo the opponent to cloning is crying for? Why is the cloned embryo so valued we must legally protect it but the natural embryo is ignored? Why do we criminalize the parents of a cloned embryo that dies but shrug our shoulders at the parents who try several months to get pregnant naturally? Aren�t the natural parents killing just as many fertilized eggs?

If we are not willing to apply the same standards to natural parents that we want to apply to the parents of cloned babies, then we are being dishonest with ourselves when we say it is the death of the embryo that appall us so.

What really appalls us is the adults. Opposition to the death of embryos in cloning, in invitro fertilization and in first trimester abortion is not about saving the embryo at all. Otherwise we would be opposed to every woman who attempted to conceive naturally.

What we oppose is the attitude of the adults toward parenthood and the freedom to choose that parenthood. The opposition to cloning on the basis of killing embryos comes from the same group of people who oppose abortion, birth control methods and assisted reproductive methods because they alter the options adults can make about entering into parenthood. And parenthood entails with it responsibilities that this group of people believe should circumscribe social behavior.

Catholics and fundamentalist Christians to name a few share a belief in the obligations of all people to marry. It is inherent in their dogma and historical roots.

While their beliefs may be respected they are still beliefs of religion not of universal morality. Morality is not synonymous with a particular religion or with religion at all. Therefore just because someone opposes the death of embryos solely on religious grounds does not make it a civil crime. The effort of anti-cloning demonstrators to thrust pictures of aborted fetuses before the delegates to the UN debating a global ban on cloning was proselytizing. It was missionary zeal trying to make converts to a particular religion.

In all likelihood it did more to offend and alienate representatives from other cultures than move them to their side.

According to press reports: �By a razor-thin margin of 80 to 79 with 15 abstentions, the General Assembly’s legal committee adopted a motion to defer drafting of the treaty until 2005. The motion was put forward by Iran on behalf of the 57- nation Organization of the Islamic Conference.�

Leave a Comment