Embryo donation and how the "pro-life" stance actually cheapens life
Salon has a fantastic article today on how pro-life forces are trying to turn embryo donation from what it really is, which is tissue donation, to "adoption", where everyone involved pretends that the donating parents, who are uniformly going to be people who used IVF to conceive, are people that are giving up "children" for adoption. This is an effort to get embryos redefined as people, and Salon tallies up the legal implications nicely.
I want to talk about how this type of redefinition of an embryo to a "child" cheapens life. It cheapens the lives of two kinds of people who are the two who are vulnerable to having their lives cheapened anyway--women, especially infertile women, and children, especially those who are up for adoption.
If you compare the two paradigms of embryo donation that are competing here--one as tissue donation and one as adoption--it becomes clear how the latter really degrades women and our bodies. Tissue donation is something done for the patient, either to save her life or enhance the quality of it. Under this view, IVF is a procedure done to the woman for her own sake, so she can fulfill her potential as a mother and have the experience of pregnancy. This is true whether she uses an embryo she made or one was donated to her.
But if you view embryo donation as "adoption", the way of understanding shifts. When people think of adoption, they then to view it as a couple opening their home to an otherwise unwanted or discarded child. Transfer that view to embryo implantation and you recontextualize it as a woman opening up her body to some unfortunate embryo. Women's bodies are imagined as houses, and uteruses are just first of many beds a child will have. Uterus, crib, twin bed, etc. It's a dehumanizing view of reproduction.
From the other angle, it does well to remember that the vast majority of embryos created for IVF are getting thrown in the trash. There will never be a point where demand for them even approaches the supply, and because they really aren't "children", into the trash they go. But if we start referring to them as "children", what does that say about us as a society? That children who can't find homes go into the trash? Granted, this is exactly the sort of social services that the Republicans are dying to cut, but I would hope the rest of us have more respect than that. You cannot equate an embryo with a child and hope that just upgrades the embryo's status to that of a child. It's going to degrade the status of a child. Embryos are just bundles of cells without feelings, thoughts, memories, or desires. If we're going to just see children as bigger versions of embryos, well, you can see where this is going.