Problems With "Conception To Natural Death"

Irving News Comments
copyright August 8, 2007
Reproduced with Permission

COMMENT: I guess if you don't get it you don't get it. Why on earth would any prolifer or prolife organization -- or the Vatican -- support this "naive" Colorado initiative?? Don't they realize that by legally defining human beings/persons as beginning to exist ONLY at fertilization/conception they thereby institutionalize into law a false scientific definition that would result in those human beings/persons asexually reproduced being legally defined as "non-persons"? [[See again my response to this ridiculous initiative copied below after the article on]] I collegially debated Judie Brown for months about this (neither she nor her young lawyer who had yet to pass the bar could adequately respond). I was contacted by Bob Enyart of CRTL (nice guy) to be a signatory, emailed him back and forth for a solid week explaining why I would NOT do so and to STOP using my name in their literature (he said he fully understood all the points in my "summary of concerns" which I sent him). Dear Hilary writes an uncritical article for essentially advancing the amendment/proposal, using my work as support; when I sent her my "summary" and asked graciously how she could do that knowing my concerns, her only response was, essentially, "Duh -- did I miss something?"

What's with these lovely people?? This is SERIOUS. It would legally open the door to all manner of abuse/death to all human beings reproduced asexually (both early embryos/fetuses as well as born adults!) -- e.g., naturally occurring human monozygotic twins/triplets in vivo and those reproduced artificially by blastomere separation or blastocyst splitting in vitro (commonly used as "infertility treatments" in IVF), as well as all human embryos reproduced through genetic engineering (as in the new iPS and the ANT/OAR research, etc.). Hello? Anyone home? Guess not.

The ends never justifies the means used (at least, according to formal Church moral theology) -- even if this would result in a super-duper nifty Supreme Court test case for Roe. [See my "summary of concerns, again, after the following news item from] The IVF/cloning/genetic engineering lobbies must be very powerful -- and amused -- indeed.

Wednesday December 19, 2007
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

New Colorado Initiative Seeks to Define Embryos as Human Persons under the Law

DENVER, December 18, 2007 ( - A young law student in Colorado has launched an effort to put a resolution on the state ballot in 2008 to acknowledge the personhood of embryos from the moment of fertilization.

Kristi Burton, age 20, is heading a group called "Colorado for Equal Rights" (, which is grabbing the attention of the major media nationwide. The organization is seeking the 76,000 signatures necessary under Colorado law to subject a resolution to a statewide plebiscite.

The resolution simply reads: "Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado: SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read: Section 31. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms 'person' or 'persons' shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization."

In recent months, personhood bills for the unborn have failed to pass state legislatures in Montana, Virginia, South Carolina and North Dakota, but Burton's strategy is different. She's bypassing the legislature altogether, and going directly to the people.

Proponents of the resolution scored a major victory in November when they defeated an attempt by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) to keep the measure off the ballot. The group claimed that the language was misleading because it didn't explain the effects that it could have on the availability of abortion in the state.

"The goal is simply to define when life begins," Burton told the Rocky Mountain News after the verdict. "We'll see where it takes us."

Burton became interested in the issue of personhood for the unborn at the age of 13, when she witnessed a resolution fail in the state legislature that would mandate a 24-hour waiting period for abortions. She believes the power of the initiative lies in its simplicity, saying of its enemies that "they realize this issue is simple and they don't have an answer for it. They cannot say when this [embryo] becomes a person. We do."

Burton is working out of an office with a single assistant: her father. However, since she won against NARAL, Colorado for Equal Rights has received a flood of offers for help in gathering signatures.

The Colorado initiative is not without precedent. In January of this year the Bush administration's Domestic Policy Council explicitly stated that ""Embryos are humans in their earliest developmental stage" in its policy statement, "Advancing Stem Cell Science without Destroying Human Life."

"We do not have to think that human embryos are exactly the same in all ways as older humans to believe that they are entitled to respect and protection", the report added. "Each of us originated as a single-celled embryo, and from that moment have developed along a continuous biological trajectory throughout our existence. To speak of 'an embryo' is to designate a human being at a particular stage."

At least one other state, Illinois, has long defined embryos as human person. The state's 1975 law led to a much-publicized decision by Judge Jeffrey Lawrence II earlier this year to allow a wrongful death suit by two parents whose children died as embryos after alleged mismanagement by a fertility clinic. The judge's decision was based strictly on the letter of the law of the state, which has reportedly survived judicial scrutiny by adding the words "Without in any way restricting the right of privacy of a woman or the right of a woman to an abortion under those decisions", in a disturbing example of cognitive dissonance.

Although the Illinois law proves that a state can successfully define an embryo as a child, while doing nothing to eliminate or even limit abortion, lawyers at the Thomas Moore Law Center are optimistic about the implications for the right to life if such initiatives are passed, speculating that they might become a Supreme Court test case that could even overturn Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the two decisions that struck down anti-abortion laws in the early 1970s.

Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center says that he "can't think of a better time than right now to bring the issue forward. I think the Supreme Court as currently constituted would say 'leave it to the states'".

Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.
copyright August 8, 2007

Problems With "Conception To Natural Death"

Although it was valid many years ago, we can no longer use the phrase "from conception/fertilization to natural death". Why? Because as all parties fully know and understand by now, not all human beings begin to exist at "fertilization" or "conception" (sexual reproduction). Many human beings begin to exist asexually, through quite a number of different kinds of cloning, and different kinds of genetic engineering and other artificial reproductive technologies. THIS IS NOT NEW INFORMATION OR SCIENCE.

Examples of those living innocent human beings who begin to exist asexually include one (or more) of all naturally occurring human monozygotic twins (or triplets, quadruplets, etc.) reproduced IN VIVO, as well as one (or more) of all artificially-produced human monozygotic twins (or triplets, quadruplets, etc.) reproduced IN VITRO (as has been done in IVF clinics as "infertility treatments for many years now) -- AND THESE PROLIFE ATTORNEYS AND "LEADERS" KNOW IT. It also includes all those living innocent human beings reproduced asexually by a variety of cloning and other genetic engineering techniques IN VITRO, such as: somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT); germ line cell nuclear transfer (GLCNT) -- as performed for several years now in Gerhart's "fetal tissue" research; "twinning" (blastomere separation, blastocyst splitting, embryo splitting, embryo multiplication) -- as used for decades now in IVF as "infertility treatments"; pronuclei transfer (which produces human/human chimeras) -- as has been done in order to prevent sex-related chromosomal abnormalities in born infants; parthenogenesis; mitochondrial transfer; hemi-cloning; the use of artificial chromosomes, genes, pronuclei, nuclei and embryos (as already sanctioned by law in Canada, Australia and New Zealand). What about the "inherent dignity" of all of these living innocent human beings?

And almost all of these artificial reproductive techniques have already been used globally as "infertility treatments" -- that is, these experimental living human embryos have been implanted into women with or without the intention of bringing them to birth. Often these experimental embryos are given oblique and obscure "names" to convince the woman that these experimental embryos are simply "reconstructed eggs", "balls of cells", or similar deceptive pseudo-scientific jargon. So much for "informed consent". What about the "inherent dignity" of all these living innocent women?

Therefore, (1) the phrase "from fertilization/conception" would not cover all of these nascent living innocent human beings -- those reproduced in vivo through natural twinning, or those reproduced in vitro through twinning, or through all of the other artificial reproductive techniques listed above. (2) Even the use of the term "conception" has been formally scientifically rejected by Swiss human embryologist Ronan O'Rahilly in his world-renown human embryology textbooks because it is often erroneously conflated with the term "implantation" (see Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pg. 19). And, (3) legally, the term "conception" has also already been defined as "implantation" in several state laws (see recent law journal article describing the "ambiguity" of the term "conception" in law, including the accompanying footnotes with specific state laws listed): Philip G. Peters, "The Ambiguous Meaning of Human Conception" Law Review: University of California, Davis, (2006) Vol. 40 (1):199-228, especially pp. 202-203, and footnotes #10, 11, 12, 13; and p. 215, footnote #55; at

(4) The term "fertilization/conception" also results in total confusion to lay prolifers and organizations, and subtly instructs them that those human beings NOT reproduced sexually are somehow not human beings OR human persons, including naturally occurring monozygotic twins/triplets/quadruplets in vivo! -- thus incapacitating their moral decision making abilities. (5) Nor could anyone then apply such language to any cloning or stem cell debates in the public square (that is, if the stem cells are derived from cloned embryos) without abject self-contradiction. And worse, (6) if such language were to become law -- and challenged, and defeated -- such false science would then become stare decisis (much as Roe, Webster and Casey have) -- that is, the courts would be legally bound to apply such false science to all related cases that came before them. (7) If that happened, then it would be legally impossible to pass any laws or regulations prohibiting any kind of reproductive cloning or genetic engineering techniques, defined in any manner, including as listed above, because those asexually reproduced human beings would legally NOT even be human beings, much less human persons. And that would, ironically, include one of every two naturally occurring human monozygotic twin (etc.) conceived naturally in vivo! Mengele would have loved it! What a monumental boon that would be to those promoting the use of cloning and other genetic engineering techniques for both "research" and for "reproductive" purposes!

(8) To make matters worse, many so-called "prolife" abortion "bans" also include the phrase "in the mother's womb". However, "fertilization/conception" never occurs naturally "in the mother's womb"; such an early embryo in the womb would not be developmentally capable of implanting! It would simply die and rot. Fertilization usually takes place outside the mother's womb, in the fallopian tubes. Such a phrase would apply only during the use of artificial reproduction, such as in IVF, where an embryo has been reproduced and "aged" in vitro, and then inserted mechanically into the woman's womb. Thus, if such language were used, it would NOT cover the living human embryo naturally reproduced for 5-7 days as it tries to make its way through the mother's fallopian tube to the uterus. Therefore, the use of abortifacients, embryo-flushing (yes, that is still being done!), prenatal genetic diagnosis, and early abortions, etc., would NOT be prohibited -- either morally or legally.

And, (9) quite unfortunately, many so-called "prolife" "total bans" on cloning have been written for many state and national legislatures that are fake "bans" -- and those "prolife" politicians know that too. E.g., the Weldon/Brownback "total bans" would ban nothing, because: (a) the term "cloning" is scientifically mis-defined as ONLY the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) -- thus legally leaving all the other kinds of cloning and genetic engineering techniques out of the bill's consideration; and (b) even SCNT cloning would not be banned, because the bills scientifically mis-define the product of SCNT as being "virtually genetically identical" to "the donor", or to "an existing or previously existing human being." However, the scientific facts are that the immediate product of SCNT is NOT "genetically identical" to anyone -- previously existing or otherwise -- because the mitochondrial DNA of the donor cell is NOT transferred, and the foreign mitochondrial DNA of the enucleated egg used remains in the cloned embryo that results. Such cloned human embryos would thus be genetically UNIQUE. The only thing that would be "banned" is some weird fanciful "cloning" technique that doesn't even exist! Therefore, such "bans" ban nothing. Yet they have served as the template for quite a number of U.S. state "total bans" on human cloning, not to mention many international human cloning "bans". Worse, (10) when the "therapeutic" stem cells from these cloned human embryos are injected into desperate vulnerable diseased patients -- even patients whose own cells had been used to asexually reproduce these cloned embryos -- the lack of donor mitochondrial DNA, and the presence of foreign oocyte mitochondrial DNA will definitely cause severe immune rejection reactions in those very sick patients. AND THOSE "PROLIFE POLITICIANS KNOW IT. Does no one care about the dignity of even these sick human patients?

So why does "prolife" continue to insist on the dangerous phrase, "from fertilization/conception"?

The second-half of the mantra is likewise ridiculous and dangerous. As many who have studied these bioethics issues for a while come to realize, the issues at the beginning of life are often somehow, sooner or later, transferred to the issues at the end of life (and vice versa) -- both legally and morally. The classic example is the issue of "personhood". So just as the phrase "from fertilization/conception" can result in the massive deaths of innocent living young human beings and in prolife disasters for the various and related beginning of life issues, so too can the rest of the phrase, " ... until natural death" result in the massive deaths of innocent living older human beings and in prolife disasters for the various and related end of life issues.

If, for example, we are directed ONLY to respect human beings "until natural death", then what about when human beings undergo "unnatural death"? Are we NOT supposed to respect them then? This would include living innocent human beings who undergo unnatural deaths due to their own suicide, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, organ transplantations, "futile care", tragic accidents, murders, drug overdoses, etc. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the problem. Prolife needs to ask themselves -- and their "prolife" leaders -- precisely WHY such a ridiculous and dangerous mantra is being so irrationally forced upon them?

[GIVEN the fact that the phrase has been used in past encyclicals -- most of those encyclicals were written before the science of asexual reproduction (both natural and artificial) was understood or accomplished. And the Church's infallibility has never extended to matters of science, only to matters of faith and morals. So if our knowledge of the science has now advanced, so too should the Church's use of it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that, either.]