Monday, 28 January 2019 15:02

IVF Sparked A New Debate About The Moral Status Of The Embryo

So long as the embryo stayed out of sight, all kinds of narratives could be spun about its moral status – traditionally, for the Catholic church, revolving around the issue of when it acquired a soul. But when the biology was laid bare, new stories were required. As the political scientist Rosalind Petchesky has pointed out, anti-abortionists have increasingly framed these in biological terms. Is personhood a matter of unique genetic identity? (Identical twins pose problems there.) Is it granted when the sperm and egg combine? When the embryo begins to acquire shape in the process called gastrulation? Implantation in the uterus? Formation of the nervous system?

The irony is that, even while biology becomes yoked to moral arguments, it shows our development as a series of contingent steps, none obviously more “fundamental” than the others. Thus the embryo’s moral status remains contentious

By Phillip Ball of the Guardian

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