Monday, February 26, 2024

Embryonic Thinking

Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post:

Having kids is nothing like they tell you it will be! How tiny they are, and how you can hardly see them without a microscope. How you can’t hold them, not even once. How they don’t have anything that could be regarded, even optimistically, as a laugh, or a face. Isn’t being a parent the best? Isn’t it laughably cruel that the Alabama Supreme Court says that this is already a child? That this cluster of hopeful cells that you have been dreaming could become a baby is actually a person already? You would be laughing, if you could stop crying.

What an appallingly cruel thing to say to people already going through so much to have a child,people who were prepared to endure the grueling in vitro fertilization process of treatments and injections and embryo development before their pregnancy could even begin. What a ridiculous thing to say to anyone with a modicum of sense.

Don’t believe the evidence of your senses. Embryos are children.Flour is cake. These acorns are an old-growth forest. This half-baked insulting nonsense of a ruling is justice.

You know what they always say about people: They are invisible to the naked eye and can be stored conveniently in vials in a hospital freezer. They are discernible only to God and the Alabama judiciary. You don’t need to feed them, ever. They don’t need books. They don’t need clean water or fresh air or sunshine — in fact, they couldn’t survive a minute outside the glass dish.

If we are being honest, they should probably be allowed to vote instead of women. (Do not worry about communicating with them! We know they would vote Republican, because Republicans are the people prioritizing their interests over those of folks who selfishly insist on taking up room on the planet, breathing and talking and writing letters to their representatives.) They are human in all the ways that matter — indeed, they are better, because they ask so little. Women, on the other hand, seem grumpy. Everyone who has a womb seems grumpy these days.

You underwent this process because you wanted to have kids? These embryos arekids now, in the eyes of Alabama law — and God, according to one judge’s concurrence, which is just as important. You could have sworn the reason this embryo was sitting here in vitro was because you wanted it to become a child, but this judge says that it is already just as good as a child. It’s so good, indeed, that protecting it from harm — even the harm that could happen in the complex process of trying to bring it to life in your womb — is worth shutting down every IVF clinic in the state of Alabama. Every subsequent step in the process — testing, implanting — everything that might result in its becoming what you naively thought was something distinct from an embryo, an actual child, must halt. Right now! Lest any harm come to children. The kind of children discernible only to these judges and, peering over their shoulder, God.

Another thing they never tell you is how deranging it is to try to argue against these absurdities. Someone points at a glass dish with a hopeful blob in it, and says this is a human child, and you say, “No, actually, that is not a child. That is something significant whose loss would be devastating because it could be a child nine months from now if everything goes well, but …” Ah, but in the eyes of God, this is the same! They say these things with straight faces. They say these things as though they were not destroying the very thing they claim to want to protect.

Because of this cruel, inane insistence on something that is palpably untrue, there will be fewer children. Three Alabama clinics that perform IVF have already halted it out of fear of legal repercussions. Would-be parents who had been planning theprocess in the hopes of meeting their children someday have been forced to abandon that hope. In the name of protecting unborn children! Not children, as you and I understand them — the kind of children who shriek with delight when you blow raspberries on their bellies, who need their diapers changed and have a favorite bear. The better kind, in the eyes of these judges. The kind that will never get to be born.

The chief justice invoked a great deal of 2,000 year-old mythology to justify the ruling, but that’s not science.  Or even reality.