At the bill signing ceremony, children who started out life as frozen embryos designated “to be discarded” were brought to the center stage. The image of President Bush and parents holding these precious kids tugs on your heart strings and makes you glad that the kids were given a chance at life instead of being tossed into the bio-trash bin. But as usual we need to set emotions aside and rely on research and reason when seeking a clearer understanding of what is going on.
Most people, including Christian folks, don’t have issues when couples with fertility problems use in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization involves fertilizing an egg (ovum) with a sperm outside of the womb. One approach is to inject a sperm directly into an egg (called intracytoplasmic sperm injection). The fertilized egg, called a zygote, is then placed in an incubation chamber and cultured until it reaches the embryonic stage of development, at which time it is transferred to a woman’s uterus.
Because embryos fail during the incubation phase, or fail later after being transferred to a uterus, multiple embryos are created. Why go to all the trouble and expense of creating a single embryo that might fail? It seems reasonable to create multiple embryos. But what happens to the extra embryos when a pregnancy is successful, assuming the parents want no more children? They are discarded.
Where is the uproar over discarding embryos? There really isn’t any. If there isn’t a fuss over discarding unwanted embryos, then why the fuss over using ‘unwanted’ embryos for stem cell research? It seems to me that people opposing embryonic stem cell research should also be opposing discarding embryos with equal fervor, but they aren’t.
Are we, as a society, morally obligated to give every frozen embryo a chance at life? Does tossing out an unwanted embryo translate into a spirit not having a chance at life? I think most Mormons would say no. Wouldn’t it be great if every unwanted embryo were given to adoptive parents? Yes, but that does not always happen for one reason or another. If it is acceptable to discard unwanted embryos created for birth, then why not use them for stem cell research?
Good news: Adult stem cell research is proving much more promising that embryonic stem cell research. This will hopefully prevent the creation of embryonic stems cells for research purposes and minimize the use of unwanted embryos in research - a win win situation for everyone, inlcuding people who may one day be adopted as embryos.