Is an Embryo a Baby?

Is an Embryo a Baby? March 6, 2024

Is an Embryo a Baby?

According to news reports, the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama has declared that embryos are babies and thus worthy of legal protection from harm. Does that make sense or is that an over reaction to “pro-choice” attempts to affirm every woman’s right to an abortion? Is it taking “pro-life” too far? Let’s get into it.

When does human life begin? Okay, at least at conception. But is embryonic human life a human being with all the rights and privileges of that status?

Note that there are at present millions upon millions of embryos in storage, waiting for possible implantation in a woman’s womb. This replaces in vitro fertilization. The embryos were “created” by fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell outside the womb. Some call it a form of IVF.

Many of those embryos will be destroyed at some point, whether purposely or accidentally.

It’s difficult for this pro-life ethicist to think of embryos as babies. Here are a couple of reasons.

First, why stop with embryos? Why not back it up to sperm and eggs before fertilization? Couldn’t one consider them also babies? But that would be absurd, of course, because there is no way to protect them. But what difference does that make in how we value them?

Second, if an embryo outside the womb or inside is a baby, why not have a funeral when it is destroyed or dies by miscarriage? To the best of my knowledge nobody does that. But it would seem to be right, if the embryo is truly a baby. Name it and give it a funeral. Nobody does that and I can’t see anyone doing that. A fetus, perhaps, but not an embryo.

Third, an embryo has no consciousness, no heartbeat, no brain activity, none of the characteristics of a baby. It is at best a potential baby.

So all of that raises the question, of course, when does an embryo become a baby deserving of rights and protection? Common sense says “not there”—not as an embryo—but “later.” Later when? Perhaps, common sense says, when there is evidence of a heartbeat, some rudimentary form of consciousness, however slight, the possibility of life outside the womb?

One thing I have wrestled with as a Christian ethicists is why the two sides of the abortion debate cannot compromise? Their lack of ability to compromise has led us, in America, down this road to where some consider embryos babies and some think a baby only exists when a fetus is born. Both views seem to me to violate common sense.

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