Why not continue the heated political topics by wading into stem-cell territory. I’m only really interested in the Church’s perspective and how Latter-day Saints might view the topic. I’ll say up front that I support more stem-cell research, but also admit to being fairly naïve on the topic and can be swayed if someone demonstrates why it’s a bad idea (hopefully with a little more than “it’s a slippery-slope”).
My understanding is that there are upwards of 400,000 embryos frozen and sitting doing nothing around the country. Those opposed to the research strenuously argue that these fertilized eggs are human life and that it is immoral to destroy life to help save another life. They argue that we must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. This is definitely an understandable perspective. However, if these are living things, why do we allow in vitro fertilization at all? The reality is several eggs are fertilized for couples just to increase the chances of pregnancy. Most are frozen indefinitely, or discarded if the couple stops paying for the storage of the embryos. By trying to help couples just get pregnant, we’re destroying plenty of “life” in the process.
The President’s recent comment that these embryos should be adopted seems a bit silly. It’s not like we’re talking about a giant orphanage with tow-headed little toddlers running around; the fertilized eggs only survive if implanted in a uterus. And in actuality, even then there’s little guarantee of survival. 70% of natural conceptions fail to attach themselves to the lining of the uterus. In theory, one could argue that couples just naturally trying to get pregnant are responsible for the death of a life. And if the defense of such action is that it’s natural, then why not do away with medical science altogether — why use medicine to keep someone alive who would have naturally died in the first place?
Further, the Church seems to have no objection to in vitro fertilization, and therefore, seems to not to be against this process of destroying fertilized eggs. The only stipulation mentioned is that couples should not use semen or eggs from anyone other than the couple, however, even that is only discouraged. From the Handbook of Instructions: “In vitro fertilization using semen from anyone but the husband or an egg from anyone but the wife is strongly discouraged. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife, with responsibility for the decision resting solely upon them” (158). The only other comment in the handbook notes that, “Children conceived by artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization are born in the covenant if their parents are already sealed. If the children are born before their parents are sealed, they may be sealed to their parents after their parents are sealed to each other” (74).
Not exactly a stinging rebuke of destroying embryos. The Church remains silent on actual stem-cell research, though that could change at anytime. What should the stance of a Latter-day Saint be? When dealing with such weighty, ethical issues, is it always best to err on the side of life? Or is such a perspective oversimplified?