Thursday, February 29, 2024

If embryos are babies, then in-vitro fertilization is immoral

Alabama and the GOP are discovering what this blog pointed out 15 years ago--if you're going to adopt a policy that embryos are full bearers of moral personhood, then you can't allow in-vitro fertilization (IVF). From my five-part debate with Vocab Malone about abortion in 2009:

Once the zygote becomes a blastocyst, it forms into an outer layer of cells, which later becomes the placenta, and an inner cell mass of pluripotent embryonic stem cells, each of which is capable of differentiating into any kind of human cell. Only after this stage does the blastocyst implant in the wall of the uterus, about a week after fertilization, and begin taking nutrients directly from the blood of the mother--a dependency that can itself be of moral significance, as Judith Jarvis Thomson's violinist argument shows. As already mentioned above, a great many fertilized ova do not reach this stage. Further, the percentages of implant failure are higher for in vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure which Vocab's criteria would have to declare unethical, even though it is the only way that many couples can have their own biological offspring.

I made the same point earlier in a comment on a podcast interview with atheist anti-abortion advocate Jen Roth (comments are no longer present but I reiterated it in response to Malone):

Was Jen Roth ultimately arguing that personhood is something that a human organism has for its entire lifecycle? At what starting point? Conception, implantation, or something else?

I find it completely implausible that an organism at a life stage with no capacity for perception, let alone reason, counts as a person. Nor that a particular genetic code is either necessary or sufficient for personhood.

I think every point that she made was brought up in a debate I had with a Christian blogger on the topic of abortion, who similarly argued for an equation between personhood and human organism. I wonder if she has any better rejoinders. Does she think that IVF and therapeutic cloning are immoral? IUDs?

The naive anti-abortion position is philosophically and scientifically unsupportable and leads to bad public policy, and today's GOP consists of a majority struggling to avoid it and a minority that is full-steam ahead and prepared to ban IVF and contraception.

The full debate between Vocab Malone and myself was spread across our respective blogs.  My contributions were:

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 1 (December 11, 2009)

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 2 (December 13, 2009)

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 3 (December 16, 2009)

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 4 (December 18, 2009)

Vocab Malone on abortion and personhood, part 5 (December 19, 2009)

And, finally, perhaps most apt to the current situation, was this exchange from the following year:

Does Vocab Malone understand the implications of his own position? (November 15, 2010)

Vocab's response is that he does think IVF is immoral, except perhaps for some hypothetical version he doesn't describe, that perhaps involves adopting all the "snowflake babies" and removing and reimplanting excessive multiple births into surrogates. (But that still doesn't address the implantation failure rate!)

No comments: