We are all former embryos on this bus
Extremists claim embryos are people, too
Sometimes it seems like God (or someone) put Pro-Life Wisconsin on this earth for the purpose of making Wisconsin Right-to-Life look more reasonable.
Pro-Life Wisconsin are the no-exception wing of the pro-life party. Rape, incest, saving a woman's life? No matter. No abortions, period.
This is the group that issued a press release calling the family of a Marine, severely brain damaged in Iraq, murderers for following his wishes and allowing him to die.
Their latest bit of lunacy:
Pro-Life Wisconsin State Director Peggy Hamill issued the following statements about Gov. Doyle’s executive order to spend $5 million in tax dollars through the Dept. of Commerce to promote embryo-destructive research:Really? Our brothers and sisters?
“The embryos on whom the Governor is promoting research are people – they have their own distinct DNA and if they were created naturally and not manipulated by scientists, they would gestate and grow up to look you and me. They are our brothers and sisters.
It's a big and growing family.
According to a 2000 study, there are some 400,000 frozen embryos in storage. A small percentage have been designated for research or donation to other couples, but the vast majority are excess embryos that will never be used to produce babies.
During the debate on stem cell research, President Bush joined a number of so-called "Snowflakes" -- adopted children who were produced from embryos left over from another couple's fertility program -- to dramatically suggest there were better alternatives than using the frozen embryos in stem cell research. Many of them wore T-shirts and stickers declaring "this embryo wasn't discarded" and "Former Embryo."
During House debate on whether to expand stem cell research, then-Majority Leader, now-disgraced Tom Delay called an embryo "a person, a distinct internally directed, self-integrating human organism," naming Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad as former embryos.
Of course, we are all former embryos.
The "Snowflake" debate prompted this Ellen Goodman column:
Although the debate focuses mainly on frozen embryos, many of them never make it to the freezer but simply go down the drain or are incinerated. These extra, unwanted, discarded embryos are not our brothers and sisters, except to a group like Pro-Life Wisconsin, which probably, if pressed, would argue that birth control is murder, too.
When people claim to believe that a frozen embryo is the moral equal of a child, ethicists like to pose this question: If a clinic is on fire and you could save either a 2-year-old or a vial full of embryos, which would you pick?
In this case, if an embryo is truly another human being, what are we to make of the Snowflake families? Donielle Brinkman and her husband received 11 frozen embryos from a clinic. After four transfers of multiple eggs and three miscarriages over several years, she gave birth to Tanner. According to their reasoning -- not mine -- if all the embryos were persons, did she produce one child and destroy 10?
Couldn't you argue that some Snowflakes are better off in the freezer than sent on the dicey journey to the womb? And what do you say about the 40 percent to 80 percent of embryos that never make it to the womb in the natural scheme of things?
But back to the weather report. Today, there are 400,000 embryos stored in clinics but only 81 ''Snowflakes." Photo ops notwithstanding, most couples do not turn to in vitro fertilization because they want their genetic offspring to be raised by others. And few couples are waiting to be impregnated with others' embryos.
Only 4 percent of the frozen embryos are available for donation -- half designated for research and half for infertile couples. No way will they all be ''adopted." And this brings us to the question that's been far too easy to evade. What are the responsibilities of the couples who create the frozen embryos and the clinics that store them?
When couples embark on the journey of in vitro fertilization, they are thinking about babies, not leftovers. The ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has long said that clinics should have couples sign advance directives about the fate of embryos in case of death, divorce, separation, the failure to pay for storage fees, or ''abandonment." No one knows how many clinics actually do it.
Couples who have gone through IVF may find it hard to decide when their childbearing option is over. Many decide not to decide the fate of their embryos.
One Massachusetts clinic owner has 1,100 clients who have stopped paying the $300 annual fee for storage. But none has given him the right of disposal.
What happens when 400,000 embryos become 800,000? Will embryos stored in the 1990s still be stored in 2050?
Embryos are not human beings. Nor are they hangnails. They carry the potential for human life that deserves moral attention and respect. It's not disrespectful to donate embryos to the search for a cure for diseases. Nor is it respectful to keep embryos in a freezer until they're eligible for Social Security.
People who are responsible for creating an embryo have the responsibility for what happens to that embryo. No clinic should be required to run a frozen limbo. It's up to the man and woman to decide whether the embryos are to be kept in storage or removed, donated to other couples or to science.
So far the storm over stem cells has been stirred up by politics. But the same couples who pursued parenthood in a petri dish can help quiet a very turbulent weather pattern.