Embryos and Personhood


A couple in Ohio is suing a fertility clinic that lost more than 4,000 eggs and embryos due to the malfunction of a storage tank’s temperature regulator. The couple is asking a court to designate the moment of conception as the beginning of human life and to recognize embryos as persons. This tragic case highlights just some of the risks involved with separating the unitive and the procreative dimensions of the conjugal act.

Immoral technological intrusions into reproduction have enabled not only the suspension of human lives in storage tanks for indefinite periods of time, but more alarmingly, their destruction, whether accidental or deliberate. Hopefully the court will rule in favor of the Ohio parents. That would constitute a very significant precedent, as reproductive technologies are increasingly sought out. A ruling in their favor would uphold not only the scientific fact of the commencement of human life at conception, but also the Church’s teaching on the dignity of all persons, even embryonic persons.

The Church mourns the loss of life in a situation such as this, affirms what she has received to be taught regarding the nature of the conjugal act and the sanctity of human life, and continues to accompany those who struggle with the cross of infertility. As heavy a cross as that may be, it cannot be cast aside in favor of illicit means of achieving a pregnancy. But it could become lighter as the Church grows in her ability to accompany those carrying it.