Leave No Embryo Behind
The coming war over in vitro fertilization.
Some pro-lifers have already decided. Louisiana has outlawed the intentional destruction of "a viable in vitro fertilized human ovum." A bill in Kentucky would make it a felony to "fertilize more than one (1) egg" during IVF. Five days ago, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., suggested that the United States should follow countries that "limit the number" of eggs fertilized in vitro to "one or two at a time." DeLay wants medical associations to require pre-emptive counseling of couples about creating and abandoning leftover embryos. Failing that, he warns that Congress's "next step is to look at" the issue. Thirty states already mandate counseling or waiting periods for abortion. The logical thing to do, if you think embryos deserve the same respect, is to mandate counseling and waiting periods for IVF.
Bush's views about embryos—that all are real human lives, and none are spares—put him squarely on this path. Still, he resists. Last week, a reporter asked him whether IVF parents "have an obligation to ensure that [their embryos] are brought to term." Bush changed the subject to public funding of stem-cell research. Another reporter asked White House spokesman Scott McClellan whether Bush thought leftover embryos whose parents refused to put them up for adoption "should just be held forever." "No, that's the choice of the parents," said McClellan, adding that Bush "supports in vitro fertilization."
I've heard these assurances before. Twenty-seven years ago, a guy running for Congress in Texas said the government shouldn't pay for abortions but should otherwise leave the decision to women and doctors. That guy was George W. Bush. Look how far he's come on abortion, and you'll see where he's going on IVF.
Correction, June 6, 2005: The article originally said the percentage of leftover embryos put up for adoption was less than the percentage donated to stem-cell research. Actually, it is less than the percentage donated to all (not just stem-cell) research. ( Return to corrected sentence.)
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of embryo on the Slate home page by Tim Boyle/Getty Images