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Why would you want your embryos one minute and have them taken apart for science the next?

April 20, 2009
A colony of embryonic stem cells, from the H9 ...
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In a growing trend of stem cell research, the US federal government has approved funding for scientific study on embryonic stem cells, meaning those harvested from a fetus.  Technically, I know that the fertility clinic would destroy those potential lives once the parents were through with their selection, but it still makes me vastly uncomfortable. I am not an armchair commentator in this babywars brigade:  I too have suffered the loss of 2 pregnancies, the last with devestating medical complications for me.  But, the flip side of this switch is that I was victimized for believing that my pregnancy was a baby early on, and the callous disregard with which I was treated, as well as my family, was sickening.

I have to admit that I can’t determine for another woman what will happen in her journey of pregnancy or even sexual maturation, but I can say that I have trouble with laws allowing the bio equivalent of infanticide by scientific study.  More to the point:  how hypocritical is it of people to go through all the trouble of creating a “perfect embryo” in  petri dish but then assigning it less significance if it is not put into the woman’s body?  So somehow the embryo is not significant when it no longer serves a purpose to its parents?  The idea is rather sickening to me.  The embryo has no choice in its creation, as none of us do, but it is specifically created at great expense, to further the needs of its parents, and then extinguished when one of its bretheren meets the needs first.  Isn’t that disturbing?

Here we are an industrialized nation that criticizes China for killing off the baby girls, and yet we are taking part in much more systematic selection of our own young and then denigrating them to “just cells” when we have finished with them.  How is this not the grossest example of human neediness and selfishness that we tire of our potential offspring and then “dedicate” them to science to support our offspring we choose to birth?

I just don’t get it, myself.  If I wanted to be pregnant, I would try, but I wouldn’t create more than I can birth, and when a poor woman births more than she can pay for, as in the OctoMom, then we denigrate her for not being able to pay for them.  The nasty edge of economic bias plays into this scenario.  Realistically, there are plenty of other women who have had 14 children, and millions of women who have used reproductive technology to get pregnant; add to that mix millions of women who have children who can’t pay for them, and yet we single out the OctoMom for birthing the embryos she chose to create?  It’s a weird dynamic to be sure, but for some reason, once the embryos are created, it’s as if they are no longer valuable, except in the form of cell harvest to support the very adults that created them.  Are we not body harvesting from our own young, literally?  But, when a poor woman gets pregnant, the discussion changes?  We only cell harvest now from the wealthy, but we denigrate the poor women?

My life changed after losing my baby, and yes, I will call it a baby.  My family and I didn’t grieve a fetus, we grieved the loss of the product of love between my partner and I, the child we hoped to raise, the grandchild my parents wanted to see, the niece or nephew to my siblings, the baby I wanted to hold.    Just because my baby was too little to survive on its own didn’t mean that I wanted to donate it to science, but that’s what our hospital did as a matter of course.  We had to fight to get the remains returned to us for burial. I didn’t feel as though because the pregnancy didn’t progress that I was somehow less a mother, but the healthcare agencies sure tried to tell me that:  “It was only cells, even though you were pregnant, and why be attached to cells?”

Really, why would we be attached to cells?  Because those cells to some of us are our babies, our children, our love, even before they are born, even if they are born dead, even if they die within us or outside of us.  I don’t blame OcotoMOm, and I can’t even find it in me to blame the people who want to harvest cells from the embryos they chose to create, but the people I do blame are those who won’t accept for anyone else, their own right to see a pregnancy, an embryo, or a loss of a pregnancy as a personal experience that should not be governed by moralistic objections based on finances.  Please, let’s just leave finances out of it for a bit.  Let mothers like me grieve, and I will let others of you alone while you do your research.

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