Value of Human Embryos Created by IVF “Infinitely Variable?”

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   May 23, 2013   |   7:33PM   |   Washington, DC

I don’t think I could have found anything less “scientific” from a website called “ScienceAlert.” A group in Australia has taken up the challenge of reforming the laws regarding “left-over” IVF embryos there. Currently, many embryos are destroyed every year because of mandatory storage limits.

This group began the “Enhancing Reproductive Opportunity Research Project” to address the concerns of women over the destruction of their embryos mandated by law.

It sounds like a good idea. From ScienceAlert:

We found that current IVF rules on issues such as storage limits and destruction practices are intrusive and disrespectful. Mandatory time limits in some states compel destruction of stored embryos after ten years, for instance, while rules in other states prevent a surviving partner from deciding on the use or donation of embryos.

So what did this group decide after surveying 400 couples in over 20 clinics across Australia? This:

We don’t believe that embryos should be granted a moral or legal significance in and of themselves as distinct entities. Rather, their value is relational – embryos matter because of what they mean to those for whom they were generated. This meaning is intensely personal, and infinitely variable.

What? Embryos only matter because of how their parents feel about them? Their moral status is “infinitely variable?” What drivel!

I thought to myself who came up with this most nonobjective analysis of the moral and legal status of the human embryo? It looks to be a group of highly-educated women. I should have been tipped off when ScienceAlert reported that this was a “feminist-oriented approach.” I wonder how this group would take to someone asserting that their worth was only defined by the value that men gave them.

Frankly, I feel insulted by this conclusion. Could a group of women with a feminist approach not come up with something with more objectivity and clarity? Is this not simply playing into the stereotype of women making decisions on feelings instead of reason? I know plenty of smart women who could come up with something more substantial and less capricious.



I suppose this is a symptom of the illness of our times. We live in a world where the unborn have no worth unless their parents “feel” that they do. It is true that in our arguably uncivilized society, the unborn’s value is “relational.”

We need to be reminded that we are not talking about human beings in the abstract, but real human organisms that just happen to be our own offspring. How disconnected have we become that we can call the value of our own children “infinitely variable?”