Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Death in vain is far from pro-life

Many of my friends have gone through countless cycles of IVF. Until recently, all but 1 of my friends have been successful (the last decided for 1 last go, her umpteenth in 5 years, last Fall and I'm happy to say, is due in August). As we all know, couples who undergo IVF frequently have blastocysts left over after experiencing the joy of success. These blastocysts are either destroyed (rarely) or stored for years but never used. After many years in storage, these blastocysts have little chance of implantation and therefor have little chance at resulting in pregnancy or birth.

In Judaism the mitzvah of pikuah nefesh (saving a life) over-rides everything else. According to Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector of the University of Judaism, "The overriding principles of honoring the dead (k'vod hamet) and saving lives (pikuah nefesh) work in tandem. That is, saving a person's life is so sacred a value in Judaism that if a person's organ can be used to save someone else's life, it is actually an honor to the deceased."

A blastocyst (the stage at which implantation occurs), there are two layers of cells: the outer layer (trophoblast) develops into the placenta; the inner layer (embryoblast) develops into the embryo. There are no organs, much like anyone at the very last moment of life, there is nothing about the blastocyst that is capable of sustaining/maintaining it's own life.

Banning the parents of these "unborn babies" from allowing them to be used for potentially life saving research/development is like banning people from donating the organs of loved ones post-mortem when those organs have the potential to save a life (or, in some cases, many lives). Keeping them frozen is not keeping them alive, it is not bringing them to life, indeed it's more like keeping them in the throes of a slow but sure death. How can someone insist "all life is sacred" then prevent a blastocyst that is doomed for destruction or an eternity in liquid nitrogen from fulfilling some living destiny and still claim to be Pro-Life? Why is a life not yet begun (nor likely too) more sacred than a life that is? By preventing use of embryonic stem cells, the so-called "Pro-life" movement compounds what they consider a tragedy every day by insisting this "death" be in vain. But then, what do you expect from the same movement that stood in the way of using embryonic/fetal tissues from abortions for no other reason than they wanted to prevent the possibility of any good coming from something bad?

For perspective from a woman who's gone through IVF, check out Sherri Nichols commentary which I discovered through FP.

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