Even though we are the only species having this conversation, that doesn’t mean that we always get it right.
I was hoping that the recent Catholic conversion of Republican candidate for President Newt Gingrich would ensure that he is pro-life and would act correctly if he is ever elected to an office. Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand the basics of embryology. He fails human ethics and would end up charged with a Federal offense if he tried to make this argument to the Environmental Protection Agency about any animal on the Endangered Species List:
“Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’
“I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life, because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”
“. . . In addition I would say that I’ve never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.
“What I reject is the idea that we’re going to take one life for the purpose of doing research for other purposes and I think that crosses a threshold of de-humanizing us that’s very very dangerous.”
Speaker Gingrich is absolutely wrong to say that we who hold the “ideological” position that human life begins at fertilization have not thought about the implications. If we hadn’t done so on our own, some utilitarian like the Speaker would have forced us to do so.
Just as with any other species, the mammal human embryo is the same species as the mother and father, and the one time when that life begins is at fertilization. What is it that implants? Would the technician in the in vitro lab or even the stem cell lab care what happened to the egg and the sperm if there is no fertilization?
Implantation is another step in that life that began at fertilization of the oocyte by the sperm.
Ectopic pregnancy is an event like cancer or heart attacks or kidney failure: when the normal process doesn’t go the way it should and people die. Because of the immediate and inevitable danger to the life of the mother and the unquestionable inability of human medicine to save the embryonic child, we don’t even count the procedures we do as “abortion.” when documenting abortion and maternal health statistics.
If we did call it abortion, it certainly would not be an “elective” abortion, but a procedure done to remove an eminent and known threat to the life of the mother who could die within minutes due to internal bleeding when the embryo grows too big for the fallopian tube at sometime between 6 and 8 weeks of age.
The sperm is not a life. Some do believe that any sexual act should be directly tied to and open to procreation, but not all Christians who object to abortion or other euthanasia agree agree on this point.
The least educated, lowest technician in the in vitro lab knows the difference between the sperm in the cup, the oocyte and the embryo. Within hours, they know whether the embryo is.
In vitro fertilization is an ethical problem when the embryos are not treated with the respect and care due the human dignity of all our children. The human embryo in the dish is the same species as the embryo in the fallopian tube. (See above.) Several countries have laws limiting in vitro fertilization, the numbers of embryos and some require that any embryo fertilized in the lab be implanted.
First, there is no way to obtain embryonic stem cells other than to destroy or endanger an embryo.The cells obtained from umbilical cord blood and the placenta are technically fetal, not embryonic stem cells. But, as the Speaker notes, no one has to die to obtain them.
And yes, our society has some tough decisions to make. Will we continue to refuse to provide the same protection for our own children that we give to a pelican or a sea turtle?