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Protecting All Embryos
Katie Breckenridge | 24 March 2023
Referring to abortion, The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin…The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."i
Our culture continuously “deprives a category of human beings from the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them” in the elimination of preborn human beings through not only abortion, but reproductive technologies such as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The overturning of Roe v. Wade has panicked many IVF advocates, considering the IVF process consists of experimentation with and destruction of many embryonic persons.ii Embryos created through IVF undergo preimplantation screenings (resulting in the discarding of thousands of embryos),iii the trial and error of the transfer process (In 2018, only 50 percent of IVF transfers in women 35 and older resulted in a live birth, and the percentage decreases at age 42),iv being placed in frozen limbo, and outright destruction through scientific experimentation.v
Now that Roe v. Wade has thankfully been eliminated, bills in Kansas, Arkansas, and West Virginia are being proposed that could criminalize the destruction of embryos through IVF. Advocates and providers, such as Barb Collura, the CEO of the National Infertility Association, are concerned that these bills “...specifically single out people who are using different kinds of medical technology,”vi and are urging lawmakers to pass legislation protecting IVF. Lauren Wranosky, research associate at Pregnancy Justice, states, “All of this, the new bills we’re seeing, is about subjecting pregnant people to more state control.” However, these laws protecting embryonic human beings are not about controlling those who struggle with infertility or perpetuating “... implicit bias toward people who can’t conceive naturally,”vii as Wranosky states, but about protecting and valuing the worth and dignity of innocent human beings.
The fact that human life begins at fertilization is, as Dr. Michael R. Egnor states, “rudimentary biology” that “has been settled science since the early 19th century. From a biological standpoint, it can’t be denied.”viii The American College of Pediatricians states, “It has been recognized for millennia” that “…at fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.”ix In a culture focused on equality, we should not be depriving a whole category of persons-the preborn-of their right to life. The ethical principle of double effect states that we cannot do an intrinsically immoral act in hopes of bringing about a good effect.x It is against natural law to take an innocent human life because human beings inherently know that the taking of such life is an unjust affront to human dignity, and it is against natural law to kill preborn human beings in hopes of achieving the good outcome of one living child.
Wranosky, Collura, and other fertility clinic advocates are focused on a warped sense of equality by referring to those seeking IVF procedures as “pregnant people” and “[persons] with a uterus.” Inferring that there is nothing inherently unique about women and their ability to create life is degrading to both the equality and dignity of women. Further, by focusing only on how those with infertility suffer and how they are “seeing lives uprooted”xi by fear of accessing IVF, they are not focused on the inequality inherent in not standing up for these innocent human lives.
The initial concern of clinics and advocates that patients will not get to kill their embryonic children anymore should tell us exactly why laws protecting these children must be passed. If legislators continue to waiver on protecting innocent laboratory-created preborn human beings, the number of already millions of frozen human beings will increase,xii eugenic aspects of IVF will increase such as picking embryos based on likelihood of intelligence,xiii and more scientific destruction will take place as the limit for experimentation increases from 14 to 28 days past fertilization.xiv As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws…Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”xv As persons focused on preserving the dignity and worth of all humans, let us urge legislators to pass laws that uplift the human personality of every category of human beings, including the preborn.
[i] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1994
[ii] Katie Breckenridge, “Embryo Dumping Fertility Industry Is Panicked Over The Potential Overturn Of Roe V. Wade,” The Federalist, last modified May 24, 2022, https://thefederalist.com/2022/05/24/embryo-dumping-fertility-industry-is-panicked-over-the-potential-overturn-of-roe-v-wade/
[iii] Marc R. Gualtieri, et. al, “The promise and challenges of preimplantation genetic testing for IVF,” MJH Life Sciences, last modified February 14, 2023, https://www.contemporaryobgyn.net/view/the-promise-and-challenges-of-preimplantation-genetic-testing-for-ivf
[iv] Nivin Todd, “Infertility and In Vitro Fertilization,” WebMD, last modified August 1, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/in-vitro-fertilization
[v] Katie Breckenridge, “The Need for More Restrictive IVF Legislation,” Society of St. Sebastian, last modified 2020, https://www.societyofstsebastian.org/fall2020-ivf-regs-breckenridge
[vi] Kyli Cheung, “In Vitro Fertilization Is in Trouble As 3 States Try to Criminalize the Destruction of Embryos,” Jezebel, last modified February 8, 2023,
[viii] Steven Ertelt, “44 Quote From Medical Textbooks Prove Human Life Begins at
Conception,” LifeNews, last modified November 1, 2022,
[ix] American College of Pediatricians, “When Human Life Begins,” American College of Pediatricians, last modified March, 2017, https://acpeds.org/assets/imported/3.21.17-When-Human-Life-Begins.pdf
[x] Mary Katherine Brueck & Sulmasy, P. Daniel, “The Rule of Double Effect,” Harvard Medical School, last modified January 1, 2020, https://bioethics.hms.harvard.edu/journal/rule-double-effect
[xi] Kyli Cheung, “In Vitro Fertilization Is in Trouble As 3 States Try to Criminalize the Destruction of Embryos,” Jezebel, last modified February 8, 2023,
[xii] Barbara Pfeffer Billauer, “Frozen Embryos: Who Gets Them? Who Keeps Them? Who Destroys Them? And When?,” American Council on Science and Health, last modified December 21, 2021,
[xiii] Brian Donohue, “Poll: Cherry-picking embryos for intellect interests many,” UW Medicine, last modified March 15, 2023, https://newsroom.uw.edu/postscript/poll-cherry-picking-embryos-intellect-interests-many
[xiv] John B. Appleby & Bredenoord, L. Annelien, “Should the 14-day rule for embryo research become the 28-day rule?,” EMBO Molecular Medicine, last modified August 7, 2018, https://www.embopress.org/doi/full/10.15252/emmm.201809437
[xv] Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail, last modified April 16, 1963, https://letterfromjail.com/