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What We Want to See versus Reality

February 29, 2024 3 min read
Lady justice blindfolded

The uproar around the Alabama Supreme Court decision handed down earlier this month, which defined human embryos as human beings, is only getting louder.

The case began as a wrongful death lawsuit after several couples’ remaining embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) were accidentally destroyed at an Alabama clinic. The Court ruled in the couples’ favor, considering the embryos “unborn children” and the case open to being pursued under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The decision has put a halt to IVF procedures in the state, with public debate unravelling over what the ruling means for clinicians’ ability to offer IVF, and what it means for the regulation of reproductive rights, more broadly.

For those flooding the media in protest, the court’s decision is frustratingly silly: “Anyone with eyes (maybe aided by a microscope)... can recognize that a fertilized egg in a freezer in a clinic is not the same as a baby," said Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. But to those on the other side, that logic is frustratingly silly. As this article put it, “there is no question, biologically, that the embryo that, as a result of in vitro fertilization, exists in a petri dish is, if implanted and gestated, the same human being who will eventually come to term, then grow as an infant, adolescent, and beyond.”

For both, the issue eventually comes to a head in what we’re willing to see in the human embryo. More than a matter of strict reasoning, much of the discourse around the Alabama case (as well as that around all reproductive rights, especially the “right” to abortion) turns on swaying its hearers’ imaginations around what that embryo seems to be: “Anyone with eyes can recognize…,” as Tipton put it. But despite the rhetoric, for those thinking strictly rationally, it’s easier, actually, to understand the latter article’s position. The Johns and Marys we see walking around all found their beginnings as genetically distinct individuals at a zygotic state. The problem is that we’re uncomfortable thinking about ourselves as the kind of people who would manipulate or endanger (or kill) Johns and Marys in the way we want to with embryos and fetuses. The solution, then, is to simply warp our view of things to suit what we want to be able to do: “Think of what a fertilized egg looks like. That’s not a baby! It’s just a bit of tissue.” These conclusions are dark machinations of the human mind; they won’t find their basis in any kind of external reality.

Our imaginations are a powerful faculty, and when rightly disciplined and cultivated, they aid us greatly in maintaining a true vision of the world. But it’s important to recognize the ways they can also easily be abused, tapped into in a way that can move otherwise sensible and morally earnest people to think and do very wrong, sometimes wicked things. But there’s a sure way to keep our minds clear and bright: we root them in revealed and rational truth, insistently and with resolve, no matter the inconvenience.

In response to rampant anti-Semitism on college campuses in recent months, some have called on universities to abandon their commitment to "absolute free speech." Robert George argues that this would come with serious unintended consequences. So how should we think about free speech?

Founded in Argentina in 2015, the Order of St. Elijah seeks to engage culture and send missionaries to the far corners of the earth. From undisclosed locations in Southeast Asia to university campuses in Argentina, this small order's missionaries are proclaiming the Gospel in places where it has dwindled or never been heard at all.

What should a Lenten homily be like? God told St. Angelo d'Acri.

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