Ronald Bailey, at Reason Online, writes:
John Opitz, a professor of pediatrics, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, testified before the President’s Council on Bioethics that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in women’s normal menstrual flows unnoticed. This is not miscarriage we’re talking about. The women and their husbands or partners never even know that conception has taken place; the embryos disappear from their wombs in their menstrual flows. In fact, according to Opitz, embryologists estimate that the rate of natural loss for embryos that have developed for seven days or more is 60 percent. The total rate of natural loss of human embryos increases to at least 80 percent if one counts from the moment of conception. About half of the embryos lost are abnormal, but half are not, and had they implanted they would probably have developed into healthy babies.
So millions of viable human embryos each year produced via normal conception fail to implant and never develop further. Does this mean America is suffering a veritable holocaust of innocent human life annihilated? Consider the claim made by right-to-life apologists like Robert George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, that every embryo is “already a human being.” Does that mean that if we could detect such unimplanted embryos as they leave the womb, we would have a duty to rescue them and try to implant them anyway?
“If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined…”
It seems to me that pro-lifers have gotten more extreme about this in recent years. At one time, most pro-lifers seemed to acknowledge that there was some sort of difference between a newly fertilized egg and, say, Julia Roberts; nowadays it seems few would make that concession. Bailey asks:
A fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have a choice: You can save a three-year-old child or a Petri dish containing 10 seven-day old embryos. Which do you choose to rescue?
I would rescue the child. I assume most of my readers would, as well. But I bet there are some pro-lifers who would say that they’d have no moral choice but to rescue the Petri dish and let the three-year-old burn.
Bailey goes on:
Stepping onto dangerous theological ground, it seems that if human embryos consisting of one hundred cells or less are the moral equivalents of a normal adult, then religious believers must accept that such embryos share all of the attributes of a human being, including the possession of an immortal soul. So even if we generously exclude all of the naturally conceived abnormal embryos…presuming, for the sake of theological argument, that imperfections in their gene expression have somehow blocked the installation of a soul…that would still mean that perhaps 40 percent of all the residents of Heaven were never born, never developed brains, and never had thoughts, emotions, experiences, hopes, dreams, or desires.
Heaven must be an odd place.
This is actually a real debate among some pro-lifers – do aborted embryos go to Heaven?
As far as I can tell, most say that they do – which begs the question, what’s so terrible about abortion? When you kill a born person – even a child – there’s the possibility that the victim will burn in Hell as a result, a horrible outcome. But if “babies” aborted before birth go straight to Heaven, then they haven’t been harmed so much as they’ve been relocated. Some pro-lifers argue that saying aborted “babies” go to Heaven is a pro-choice lie intended to make abortion seem less terrible. Other pro-lifers disagree. (Hat tip: After Abortion.)