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and baby makes three

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 06, 2005

A latecomer joins the family:

A HEALTHY baby girl has been born in California after spending 13 years as an embryo frozen at -235C. In a remarkable twist to an already remarkable case, Laina Beasley is a triplet because she was conceived at the same time, by the same parents, as her two 13-year-old siblings.

The news article spins the story so as to gloss over the deeper moral issues at stake, but they got the first bit right. Late-implanted Laina Beasley was that embryo -- i.e., the very same human being she is now -- developmentally suspended in liquid nitrogen for 13 years. Robert George and Patrick Lee have elsewhere explained why this is so, with lucidity and force:

The adult human being reading these words was, at an earlier stage of his or her life, an adolescent, and before that an infant. At still earlier stages he or she was a fetus and before that an embryo. In the infant, fetal, and embryonic stages, each of us was then what we are now, namely, a whole living member of the species Homo sapiens. Each of us developed by a gradual, unified, and self-directed process from the embryonic into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of human development, and into adulthood, with his or her determinateness, unity, and identity fully intact. Although none of us was ever a sperm cell or an ovum—the sperm and ovum from whose union we emerged were genetically and functionally parts of other human beings—each of us was once an embryo, just as we were once infants, children, and adolescents. In referring to "the embryo," then, we are referring not to something distinct from the human being that each of us is, but rather to a certain stage in the development of each human being—like saying "the teenager" or "the five-year old."

Just to make it clear, the way in which the Beasley embryos were created is morally repellent and is unambiguously excluded by Catholic teaching. Once created, however, each embryo is a human being with an immortal destiny. To return to the news story:

"I still look at her and can't believe it," Debbie Beasley, 45, the infant's mother, told The San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story of the birth. "I smell her and kiss her, and I still can't believe she's here."

A good picture to keep to mind, whenever you read the contempt directed at those who are striving to protect what is sneeringly described as "a clump of cells" from destruction.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Andy K - Jul. 16, 2005 8:11 AM ET USA

    Dear Verum Res, "Good is different than nice." (Little Red Riding Hood in "Into the Woods.")

  • Posted by: - Jul. 07, 2005 2:39 PM ET USA

    Morally repellent but "nice"?!?! I don't even know what to say.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 07, 2005 4:56 AM ET USA

    Better late than never — and certainly better than throwing away the embryo that became Laina :-) I've thought of a "women's" novel plot in SF style. Husband & wife in 2100 want kids, can't have them: wife is implanted with embryo of husband's grandmother's brother, then with embryo of wife's grandfather's sister. The kids who are born are the spouses' great-uncle and great-aunt! It'd be nice if that happened — weird, and morally repellent according to Church teaching — but nice nevertheless.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 06, 2005 2:05 PM ET USA

    The embryo story is a bit like the Gilbert & Sullivan operatta where the hero was born on leap day and therefore failed to reach rapid maturity.

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