Monday, March 24, 2014

Pro-choice ethicists: OK to use aborted baby's ovaries to create new children

[Today's blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind]

Fetal tissue harvesting and experimentation on aborted babies are logical outgrowths of the pro-choice position. After all, if unborn babies are mere “tissue,” then there is no need to respect their remains.

But some proposals of what to do with those remains are truly bizarre – and deeply disturbing.

In an article titled "Transplantation of Aborted Fetal Ova: a Short Analysis" that was published in The Wanderer on August 4, 1994, author Lawrence Roberges described grisly experiments done by Dr. Robert Gosden of Edinburgh University. Dr. Gosden proposed harvesting the egg cells from the bodies of female aborted babies and using them for in vitro fertilization, as well as implanting ovarian tissue from aborted babies into the ovaries infertile women. He has had success with this process in mice. What the experiments would entail is obtaining female aborted babies from clinics (increasing clinic revenue), then slicing open the aborted children’s ovaries (ovaries actually start developing in the first trimester) and harvesting their eggs. The article went on to describe experiments he has done on mice:
A paper written by Dr. Gosden in the April 1992 Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics reviews the outline of this research a full two years before his research proposal became news. This paper bases his proposal on prior work in which Dr. Gosden has extensively performed mouse fetal tissue transplants studies to restore the fertility of sterile mice. These studies included using mice fetal tissue to restore fertility to sterile mice, restore endocrine function to mice without ovaries, and freezing and storing mouse fetal ovarian tissue for later successful implantation. Dr. Gosden's work promises to harvest eggs from aborted fetuses at the 12 to 16 week stage. They would then fertilize the eggs by in vitro methods and implant them into previously sterile women.… it would restore the fertility of women who have prematurely undergone menopause, thereby giving them extended years of childbearing.
Can you imagine going through life knowing that your mother was an aborted baby? The prospect is deeply disturbing. Many adopted children grow up wondering what their birth parents were like, but I cannot even begin to imagine how a person would come to terms with the fact that their mother never drew a breath outside the womb. It leads to all kinds of disturbing and macabre thinking.

In the Journal of Medical Ethics, Jonathan M. Berkowitz, a supporter of Gosden’s proposal, sidestepped the issue:
Certainly there may be many emotions associated with the knowledge of being conceived outside sexual intercourse… [A] study concluded that "the majority [of children produced via IVF] were performing above the norm for the chronological age but were subject to a "significantly higher incidence of… behavioral and emotional problems.
Jonathan M Berkowitz, "Mummy Was a Fetus: Motherhood and Fetal Ovarian Transplantation" Journal of Medical Ethics 21:298 – 304 (October 1995).
Of course, knowing that your mother was an aborted baby is very different from knowing that you were conceived through in vitro fertilization. It’s hard to understand how he does not see the difference.

The New York Times summarized Fletcher’s argument:
Dr. John Fletcher [an ethicist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville] said most of the ethical qualms  pale beside the good that can be done for infertile couples. For example, he said, even though a child might be troubled to learn that its genetic mother was an aborted fetus the child would almost certainly rather have been born from the fetus's eggs than not to have been born at all. "The idea that you would be filled with self-loathing if 50% of your genes are from the ova of an abortus seems to me highly questionable,” he said. 
Questionable? Really? It is questionable that knowing that your mother was an aborted baby (or, as he says, “abortus,” a dehumanizing term if I’ve ever heard one) would be traumatic and disturbing? I can’t imagine any human being not being affected by the horror of this type of beginning. The psychological ramifications are enormous – and so are the social ones. What would America be like if it were socially acceptable for people to be born with an aborted baby for a birth mother? It reminds one of the society portrayed in the book Brave New World.

One might think that the concept of harvesting fetal ovaries for future implantation in women and extracting fetal eggs for in vitro fertilization would be just an aberrant idea that would be quickly forgotten. But in 2003, BBC News described experiments with aborted babies’ ovaries taking place in Israel:
The lead researcher, Dr Tal Biron-Shental, from Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, Israel, conceded that the concept of taking egg follicles from an aborted baby was controversial.
Presenting the work to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Madrid, she said: "I'm fully aware of the controversy about this - but probably, in some place, will be ethically acceptable.” 
It is hard to suppress a shudder when imagining a society that would condone this way of creating children. Dr. Biron-Shental went on to describe the benefits of her work, saying "There is a shortage of donated oocytes (eggs) for IVF - oocytes from aborted foetuses might provide a new source for these. There are a huge amount of follicles in the foetal ovary."

Fortunately, Biron-Shental’s work is still in its preliminary stages – no embryos or fetuses have been created using this method – at least as of 2003. But it is deeply disturbing to think about where this research is going. What will the future hold?


Caitlin said...

"For example, he said, even though a child might be troubled to learn that its genetic mother was an aborted fetus the child would almost certainly rather have been born from the fetus's eggs than not to have been born at all."

Strange, isn't it....when PCers make the argument that the child would have led a terrible life anyway due to [poverty, disability, whatever] and therefore it is compassionate to abort it, PLers often respond with this very argument: that most people would agree that despite its challenges, life is still worth living would rather be born.

I know it's a bit off topic, but it strikes me as ironic that PCers can employ PL rhetoric when it suits them. In other news, apparently you don't even have to be a "person" to be a biological mother....

Jameson Graber said...

The Brave New World comparison doesn't really work because in the book the goal was to give reproduction over to the state, whereas today the goal is to restore fertility to individual women. I agree that the implications of this process are disturbing, but it has more of an individualist twist than BNW.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to see how anyone could have a problem with this without having a problem with abortion itself. In other words, in a world where the aborted fetus is treated as subhuman, there simply is no good independent defense against taking their oocytes.

Barry G said...

"For example, he said, even though a child might be troubled to learn that its genetic mother was an aborted fetus the child would almost certainly rather have been born from the fetus's eggs than not to have been born at all."

Intense Irony Alert. AKA, if this is true, how is it not true that an aborted fetus would have preferred to have been born.

ignorance_is_curable said...

If you stop lying to yourself about "baby" you would have fewer psychological issues with abortion. When you hold a baby in your arms, does it have an attached placenta? Is a baby in your arms able to obtain sustenance for itself? No? And "no" again (because it has to be, at the very least, held near a milk-filled teat)? Then an unborn human is NOT the same thing as a "baby", period!

What an unborn human is, is a "baby under construction". Got that? Do you call a framework of a boat a "boat", expecting to use it to go fishing today? Do you call the framework of a house a "house", expecting to move into it today? Then why call a baby-under-construction a "baby", when it is no such thing?!? Old habit, you say? Old habits can be changed when you know better!

ignorance_is_curable said...

Regarding "baby", do look again at what I wrote (parenthetically) about dictionary definitions. Unborn humans were CALLED "babies" LONG before all the Actual Facts were learned, about the differences between unborn humans and infant humans. Now that we KNOW the Facts, we can STOP expressing Ignorance of those Facts (by continuing to propagate FALSE data about "babies").

Self-construction by any other name is still "construction". Consider the foundation element of most life-forms, the cell. It acquires resources (construction materials), and when it has acquired enough, THEN it uses those materials to CONSTRUCT a duplicate of itself (usually so perfect a duplicate that it is impossible to identify the original cell, afterward). So, since in a growing multicellular organism, enormous numbers of cells are doing that simple thing, constructing copies of themselves, it IS still accurate to call the overall process a "construction project".

Another thing is, the word "development" is normally dissociated from a philosophical thing, WELL-KNOWN to the construction industry, called "Murphy's Law". Yet it is a FACT that the construction process of an unborn human can go wrong, in perfect accordance with Murphy's Law, in a huge number of ways, which is why about 50% of all conceptions fail to result in confirmed pregnancies, and about 15% of all confirmed pregnancies miscarry.

It is thoroughly-well-known that an unborn human simply cannot function as well, biologically, as a full-term newborn. When the construction process (no matter what is is called) is FINISHED ENOUGH, that is when the unborn human is ready to discard the placenta and get along without it. (Note, I'm aware that due to defective DNA or other factors, the final sequence of events might be initiated in the wrong order, perhaps leading to a stillbirth, or to a preemie that cannot function as well as a full-term newborn.)

TooManyJens said...

"Unborn humans were CALLED "babies" LONG before all the Actual Facts
were learned, about the differences between unborn humans and infant

That's an odd assertion. I'm pretty sure nobody thought there were just tiny little newborns chilling out in there. At least not since the homonculus days.

Do you lecture pregnant women who say "I heard the baby's heartbeat today"? Or parents who refer to their school-age children as "my baby" (as I still sometimes do with my first grader)? I don't think that whether or not the term "baby" applies to the unborn proves anything, but I also think it's just silly to try to narrowly confine it to newborns as you do.

ignorance_is_curable said...

"That's an odd assertion" --it is accurate. Remember that unborn humans were not even considered to be alive, for thousands of years, before they began to "kick" in the womb --yet pregnancy was for-just-as-long identified by the cessation of regular menstruation, and a phrase synonymous with pregnancy has for-just-as-long been "with child".

That is, even though it wasn't considered to be alive, it was still CALLED a child or baby!

Then we learned about cells, and how macroscopic life-forms are basically constructed from lots of cells. Each such organism is actually alive from the fertilization event. BUT it wasn't until recent decades that we learned the True Nature of the placenta.

Only modern DNA testing allows us to KNOW that it is PART of an OVERALL unborn mammalian organism. And THAT is why an unborn human is NOT the same as a "baby", after the umbilicus is cut. For all those centuries people thought that only the fetus-part of the overall unborn human was relevant (and the word "fetus" comes to us from the Latin for "child", as further evidence of Ignorance Of Fact).

The goal of an abortion is to kill/remove the WHOLE unborn organism, not just the fetus-part of it.

There SHOULD be lectures regarding NOT calling unborn humans "babies" or "children", and there is a GOOD reason why to do that. It has to do with the Natural Miscarriage Rate of about 15%.

When you call an unborn human a "baby", you are helping to create a psychological association between pregnancy and a SUCCESSFUL birth. This CANNOT affect the outcome, if defective DNA inexorably leads to a miscarriage. Net result, you have helped INCREASE the psychological suffering of the formerly pregnant woman.

But if you call the unborn human a "baby under construction" INSTEAD, especially if you also note that Murphy's Law is a relevant factor, you are NOT helping to create that psychological association. One can hope for the best, but one SHOULD be mentally prepared for the worst. The net result, if a miscarriage occurs, the event can be significantly less traumatic.

I remind you of the "good old days" when about 50% of newborns died by the age of three. While I haven't been able to find a specific link supporting this next thing, it is my understanding that the origin of a "naming day" ceremony had to do with the fact that so many infants tended to die so soon after birth that it wasn't worth the effort to give them names before they had proved able to survive for a while (months?). To the extent that that is true, it is NOT a sign that huge psychological attachment to babies was normally done in Those Days. Modern medicine lets us do it with respect to infants These Days, because their mortality rate is SO much lower than it used to be. But the miscarriage rate has hardly changed at all! Which makes it Stupid to do ANYTHING to encourage psychological attachment to the unborn --such as by calling them "babies" or "children".

Coyote said...

"Strange, isn't it....when PCers make the argument that the child would have led a terrible life anyway due to [poverty, disability, whatever] and therefore it is compassionate to abort it, PLers often respond with this very argument: that most people would agree that despite its challenges, life is still worth living would rather be born."

Once again, this killing due to compassion argument is pure BS and does not withstand logical scrutiny. Why? Well, because this argument can also be used to justify elective late-term abortions, elective infanticide of healthy human infants, et cetera.

JDC said...

"For example, he said, even though a child might be troubled to learn that its genetic mother was an aborted fetus the child would almost certainly rather have been born from the fetus's eggs than not to have been born at all."

Others on this thread have already pointed out how this relate to abortion, so I would like to examine another problem with this line. Namely, this argument essentially leads to the conclusion that all things related to reproduction are beyond ethical questioning. For example, people conceived in rape my not prefer to have not been born, so according to Mr. Berkowitz rape must be morally okay. One can also imagine less extreme examples, such as a woman stealing a man's sperm or a man sabotaging his partner's birth control. In these cases, the resultant children may very prefer having been born over not having been born, but most people would still find the means used to conceive them to be morally wrong.

Chris P said...

An aborted fetus is certainly not "a human". Why try to demonize this all the time.

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer said...

That's one of the central points of difference between most pro-lifers and most pro-choicers. PLs say that an aborted fetus/baby is human; most PCers say that she or he is not. And that's why PLers hit on it so often.

Chris P said...

Please learn some English grammar. Human is both adjective and noun. A fetus is a human fetus - it is not A human.

Coyote said...

From a politically anti-abortion perspective, I don't think that one should be against this *as long as* no embryos are actually created for this purpose *while abortion is/remains legal*.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Thank you for the linked article. You will find the flaws in it exposed as item #104 at (just search for 104)

Jason said...

You're clueless Chris. The entire argument is that fetuses are human persons in addition to being members of the human species. This has nothing to do with grammar.

Chris P said...

A fetus is not a human person. That's just you and the other guys trying to push nonsense on the rest of us. A human person walks, talks and is independent of the mother

Michelle Ewing said...

Baby is a term for a person or animal that is adored, so I don't see whats wrong with calling a fetus baby. just as calling you significant other baby is ok.

just like I am ok with Pro choicers calling a fetus a potential person. legally speaking, according to our constitution, we are persons at birth, and fetuses has the potential to be born.

as for the issue of attachment. hormones are at fault for the attachment you feel is unnecessary/harmful. it is biology that is responsible for those psychological affects, not intelligence.

Miscarriage, with current technology, cannot be avoided. to tell a mother she has not lost a child ( or offspring, if you prefer) is down right cruel.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Adoration can be misplaced. It is proved to be misplaced whenever a miscarriage happens. If we could "read" DNA thoroughly enough to predict that a particular pregnancy would miscarry in the 5th month due to an uncorrectable defect, would you recommend adoration of the relevant unborn human? LOGICALLY, it is better to wait for birth, before wasting psychological effort on the unborn. "Hope for the best, but be mentally prepared for the worst."

I have nothing against your second paragraph. I merely note that "potential" and "actual" are two different things that can be treated differently.

Here is something about "potential chickens at the grocery store".

I happen to like the phrase "Natural Mindless Biology". Many of the things associated with pregnancy are 100% Natural Mindless Biology In Action. Well, now, humans claim to have Free Will. Does that mean we MUST be slaves to Natural Mindless Biology?

For example, if someone eats a lot of high-cholesterol foods over many years, and Natural Mindless Biology threatens heart failure, that person might choose to get a heart transplant.

Or, if you get sunburned, A Natural Mindless Biological response to experiencing too much ultraviolet light, you might decide to take some pain-killer, instead of choosing to suffer.

Or, if a mosquito tries to bite you, entirely because of Natural Mindless Biology, you might decide to swat it.

In general, humans often choose NOT to be slaves to Natural Mindless Biology, and obtaining an abortion is just one more way of doing that.

Finally, I said nothing about what to tell a woman AFTER a pregnancy was miscarried. I talked about preparing her mentally, so as to be able to better-handle such an event, IF it was to happen.

Michelle Ewing said...

I have never heard of "natural mindless biology" and can't find anything on it. do you mean, instinct, cause and effect, or something else?

and I don't think knowing about miscarriage would help a mother better deal with her loss. asking to put emotion aside till birth is a stretch. try asking any pregnant woman to put aside any emotion even for 5 minutes and you'll see what I mean.

ignorance_is_curable said...

The phrase "natural mindless biology" means precisely what it says. Biology happens mindlessly and is perfectly Natural. And like the rest of Nature, it cares not at all what humans think about it. It simply is.

You may have missed a point. The notion was for a pregnant woman to receive advance notice that a miscarriage was inevitable, due to defective and uncorrectable DNA. I can see how she might not want to believe it, BUT if she does happen to believe it (perhaps this "DNA prediction service" has been in business for a few years and has a very accurate track record), would it make sense to become MORE emotionally invested in the pregnancy? I'm not talking about "being emotional" --I'm talking about "emotional investment", like hopes and dreams are often associated with an emotional investment.

Ignorance_Is_not_Curable said...

Have you saw this yet ignorance?

ignorance_is_curable said...

I have now. The author is obviously mis-informed, and doesn't know what he is talking about. That is, he mentioned that FALSE/non-existent thing, "the intrinsic value of human life" (my emphasis) while talking about corpses. Tsk, tsk!

Johnny said...

Being unable to walk doesn't make you any less human. That applies to children before they can walk and also people in wheelchairs.
There are also people who have various forms of mutism that cannot speak.
And regarding dependence there are conjoined twins who are biologically dependent on each other, that doesn't make them not human.
A human is simply an organism belonging to the species homo sapiens.

Chris P said...

And a fetus is not an "organism" because it is part of the mother and reliant on the mother for nutrition and is still changing it's gene expression.

Jocelyn said...

In ancient Rome the qualification to be a "person" was to be a land-holding male. His wife, slaves, and children were all property and not persons. The definition of personhood is a legal one, not an intrinsic one and is therefore not self-explanatory. To be "human" has a basic biological meaning. If you're definition of person requires one to walk and talk then many elderly people grow into non-persons as they age. And infants under the age of one don't qualify, neither to many of the disabled. No breastfeeding child is independent of their mother. In reality you have to even clarify what independence even means. I could use that definition to justify neglect.... the child was unable to survive independent of my constant care and was therefore not a person and it was therefore not a crime to let it die. If you're going to make claims about the ethical value of what you consider to be a "person" then have the intellectual honesty to apply your definition across the board for the human species...even when it may eventually not include you.

Jocelyn said...

You're still changing your gene expression, you just change it less and the effects may be less systemic. It is not part of the mother, it is attached to the mother via a shared organ (placenta).

Chaoticblu said...

So creepy! I want infertile couples to be able to have children but this is NOT the way to do it. Maybe put out a campaign supporting consensual ovum donations from adult woman? While that's going on we can actually fix in vitro and make it ethical and cost effective. I'm for the concept but certainly not for creating more zygots than you need and killing those humans that you don't implant.

I'm not a doctor so I have a question. I read regarding invitro that the doctor testes a zygote for genetic problems and kills them if they are deemed unfit. Well, can't they actually test the sperm and ovum before they join the 2, to see if they carry bad genetic material? Or would testing destroy them?

Chaoticblu said...

I actually didn't know how "person' was used in the Constution despite my glancing through it a few times. Thanks for mentioning that. Not sure that helps the pro life cause though. Since common us varies so much what it should actually mean is still up for debate then.

I think the Constitution and common use should match (at least on definition of the word since there is more than one definition for a word typically.

In the abortion debate it's so important to have a consensus on the term.

I'm for the Constitution being updated since we know different things about when life actually begins now. And "person" means "human being" as one of it's definitions.

Chaoticblu said...

I am pro life, but I'd still be creeped out if the ovum were from children who passed away after birth, no matter the cause. I think in those cases though parents should be allowed to donate their bodies to medical science . And with medically necessary abortions. Just when children are involved things like this just make me uncomfortable. But that's on a strictly personal basis.

I definitely have a problem with this proposal as they ARE using aborted fetuses. If they are from elective abortions I fear that will encourage abortions and these children still aren't getting a proper burial /cremation. No respect.

Some people don't care about these values and others but I feel like they strengthen us as a society. They are things that can give us peace of mind when we sometimes feel powerless.

Chaoticblu said...

It's do to it being proven science that we're trying to drill home to everyone.

2 human beings who have sexual intercourse that 'takes' will always produce a human being. Human DNA creates a human made of human DNA.

Granted there are some anomalies that can happen I've heard of (like zygotes that didn't form right) but an ATTEMPT to form a human being was still made. So when it works correctly a new human being will be brought into existance.

What's interesting is some people will then not deny this but then act like they were talking about 'personhood' the whole time..switch it up when cornered. It's annoying and I like I'm sure everyone does sees through this tactic and knows it's an expression of fear of the truth and that their arguments aren't holding up.

Chaoticblu said...

You prove my point Chris. You are confusing a human being-a member of the Homo Sapien species-with your version of "personhood" . What you are actually describing is a preborn person/human being who is no longer a preborn person/huban being but has developed further into a stage of life (possibly toddler or child ) where they can walk and talk and be understood. And are STiLL a human being, not just newly one.

Chaoticblu said...

A fetus and any living creature, even plankton or fungi- qualifies as an organism. Please do some biology research. A fetus is most certainly their own human being. Otherwise they would never be born, they would just stay inside the woman if they are part of her.

They are part of her in the sense half their DNA came from her but they are still a physically different separate body and developing mind. They are tempoarily connected by the umbilical cord but that doens't not make them one human being.

Chris P said...

"Separate" means not joined. Some fetuses are not born - in fact MANY are not. A great argument against a creator. Any idea that an intelligent designer would design a system that repeatedly kills fetuses is no designer.

Chris P said...

Two cells does not make a "person"