Donor eggs and human rights


Universe Column for August 24th 2003

By David Alton

If you steal certain kinds of birds eggs you could find yourself up before a British Court and facing a jail sentence. If you steal the eggs of an aborted baby girl you will be lauded by the reproductive rights movement. If you are a fox you will be worth five parliamentary bills and the threat of the Parliament Act against those who hunt you; if you are a human embryo you can be dismembered, destroyed and experimented on with the full force of British law.

Lest the thought should cross your mind that there is some inconsistency and lack of logic in these arguments, never fear, the Government will produce their favourite philosopher to reassure you that all is well.

In 1990 it was Mary Warnock – Baroness Warnock – whose committee pronounced that there was no “moral objection” to the use of human embryos for the purposes of experimentation. She says that her only regret is that she ever used the word “respect” in the Warnock Committee Report – after all, she now says, when you flush them down the drain it doesn’t show much respect.

Since 1990 one million human embryos have been created and only 4% have seen the light of day.

Now Lady Warnock tells us that there is no “moral objection” to the eggs of baby girls being used in fertility treatments. She says that “when it comes to using eggs from aborted foetuses to fertilise and then implant in another woman seeking an egg donor, then I suppose the question is whether that woman, the hopeful mother, would object to the thought that this is where the eggs came from. I don’t see why she should.”

But, as usual, that is the wrong question and the wrong answer.

The questions are about our right to plunder the ovaries of an unwilling donor. The little unborn girl who has been aborted has clearly had no say in this.

The questions go beyond the grave robbing. They concern the most basic question of all: who am I? How will a child feel who grows up knowing that its natural mother was an aborted baby and that its grandmother took its mother’s life? Don’t these questions provide a scintilla of interest for the nation’s most distinguished philosopher?

In the week that clinicians were arguing for the right to raid the ovaries of the aborted, other scientists were proudly boasting that they could organise womb transplants – to enable men to become women and to bear children. Another fertility doctor gleefully added that he had cooked up a hermaphrodite embryo in a test tube. The embryo has been labelled a chimera after the monstrous part-snake, part lion, and part-goat hybrids of Greek mythology.  What kind of world are we creating and where here is respect for human dignity and for life itself?

One of the most compelling aspects of what is proposed is the thought that an aborted baby can give life to the next generation – that a woman is at her most fertile when she is just 20 weeks gestation in her own mother’s womb. Doesn’t this tell us everything we need to know about the humanity of the unborn child? Is there not a philosopher left in England who sees the grossness of what is underway and who feels compelled to speak out?

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