Should You Save 147 Frozen Embryos Or One Living Baby?

Rationality is taking some hits. There is actually a movement afoot to pass legislation in lots of states that will declare that a human life starts at conception, not at birth like our stupid ancestors
thought. These folks want to amend state constitutions to fix it so that such a law could not be found to be un-constitutional because it would be right there in their constitutions. Sneaky, huh?

This movement is sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church and the Fundangelicals to whom they have sold their agenda. These religious groups defend their unconstitutional schemes by denouncing the idea of separation of religion and government. What the Church says must of course win. That’s how god wants it.

How shall we fix the birth date, and hence the birthday, of those persons who will be conceived after the amendment is passed? There will be a bunch of them, in that many contraceptives will simultaneously be banned. And how will we correct the birth dates and birthdays of those born before the corrective change got passed? In that the number of days between conception and birth can vary widely, there must be some way we can make things as accurate as they were under the old system of saying a child was born after it was out of the mother’s birth canal, the cord had been cut, and the baby took its first breath. Far too simplistic for the new morality.

Birth certificates and tombstones must all be altered to reflect the new reality. But should nine months worth of additional days of life be added, or should it not more correctly be that the actual number of days to be added are the number of days since the person became a person by becoming a fertilized egg?

To be sure, there may be minor problems. Clever lawyers might argue, if a person is charged with drinking, or for driving a car while a year under the legal age for such, that the defendant is actually nine months older than their stated age as mandated by the new amendment to their state’s constitution. Surly this must be a valid defense for anyone whose live birth birthday is after March 31st under the old system.

How many lecherous dirty old men can escape justice by arguing in court that the girl was actually not seventeen but eighteen, after the days of gestation that preceded her live birth are added to her pre-constitutional amendment birth date to produce her true age?

The same will of course apply to the voting age, the draft age, and lots of other things the religiofanatics have not thought about. Like retirement age, the age for Social Security eligibility, and so forth. And of course application of the death penalty.

Readers are encouraged to suggest their own realizations of other effects the change will have.

Here is a little test to see just how much anyone actually believes this nonsensical idea of the onset of personhood. For the purpose of this exercise, please assume all of the following to be true:
1) You are a visitor in a hospital for some lawful reason;
2) A fire breaks out in the hospital;
3) You have these options, and no others:
a) You can do nothing and leave;
b) You can save 147 frozen human embryos.
c) You can save one living human baby.
Those are the facts for this inquiry into your morality and mental health.

Assuming you do not cowardly flee, which do you save—the 145 embryos or the baby?

Edwin Kagin
© 2012.


  1. Bruce Martin says

    Clearly, a person is worth 146 blastocysts. So you have to save the bottle of liquid nitrogen with the frozen 147 little ones. But if there were only 145, then you should save the person instead. So, in case of fire, get out your microscope and start counting.

  2. says

    Push up the age of the child to 6 or 8 in your hypothetical. After all, though legally a person, there’s still not a lot of there there in an infant, thus making it easier for the forced birthers to fool themselves into thinking that they’d really choose the embryos. Can they honestly say they’d abandon a cute 6 year old to the flames–one who knows what’s going on and is scared and wants a puppy for Christmas and is beloved by its parents–for a case of frozen biological product?

  3. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    And if, in your rush to save the frozen pre-borns instead of the poopy squalling neonate, you accidentally spill the flask … is that going to be 146 counts of negligent homicide?

  4. unbound says

    To be honest, the 147 frozen human embryos being more valuable than the screaming infant is pretty consistent with the Catholic / fundie way. They hoot and holler about abortions, but the tend to disappear when it comes to actually helping the poor children in this country and around the world (after all, those tax breaks are far more important than good child healthcare).

    Let’s see here…over 1.5 million homeless children, over 15 million children go to bed hungry, over 400,000 in foster care…yeah, the embryos are clearly the most important priority…

  5. billydee says

    Is the person who saves the frozen embryos going to have to take care of them after the fire? What, do you place them in the back of your freezer and then forget about them until someone knocks at your door and asks you if you have any spare embryos? It seems like there’s a flaw in this line of logic.

  6. Aliasalpha says

    I have 2 hands, assuming the embryos are in some form of container (like some manner of microwave-ready atheist snack), I reckon I could carry them AND a real baby

    • says

      Tilt. The rules of the game are quite exact. You must take the facts as presented. And the facts state that you can only rescue the embryos OR the baby. We can get around any issue of morality by just changing the rules or the facts a bit. So which do you save?

      • Aliasalpha says

        What, I can’t cheat? I’m usually rather good at that. Oh well I suppose the baby then, better to eat fresh than frozen after all…

    • says

      Won’t work. The container holding the proto-babies is a 20 gallon fish tank (for some reason). It takes 2 hands to carry and there is no room for a baby to fit inside it, either.

  7. says

    The blastocysts of course. When am I ever going to havea chance to eat 147 people in one swallow like that again?
    I can always get a tender newborn from someone duped by those pregnancy counselers, but have you ever tried to get human roe/fry? Sure isn’t like in Junior…

  8. davidct says

    The 147 embryos only have the potential of becoming human and would quickly die if allowed to thaw and not implanted. The baby has actually lived up to its potential to become a person and there is no longer any need for a mother to allow survival. Even as a male, I could help it survive.

    I would not put a high priority on the embryos even if there were no baby. With over 7 billion people on earth there is no shortage of people. The sanctity of human life is a luxury that quickly disappears when resources become critically scarce.

    • says

      Thank you for your comments. But you have misconstrued the facts as set forth in the essay, and you have almost certainly committed manslaughter, if not murder.

      Please recall that this choice of options is far different from your idea that the embryo have “the potential of becoming human.”

      Under the laws of the state in question, the people of the state have passed an amendment to the constitution of their state defining a “person” as being extant at the moment of conception. “Person” means “human.” Excepting of course the odd ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court making a corporation a human.

      So, in light of your new perceptions about the law, which would you choose? The baby or the embroys? Both, under the proposed amendments, are equally living humans.

      • inflection says

        Also as mizuko kuyo, water children, in Japan, where the name is applied to children who died before birth, such as miscarriages, abortions, etc. There are shrines for them, basically memorial graveyards.

  9. Art says

    Hmmm … so can we start sending out demands for child support to fathers of embryos? That dewar of liquid nitrogen isn’t going to refill itself. Start charging rent for storage space and bill the parents.

    That guy that made beer money donating sperm may be getting surprise. Two hundred kids at twenty dollar a month each might put a crimp in his style.

  10. Samphire says

    While you guys were squabbling over your eggs, if you had looked up for a moment you might have seen me sneaking out carrying that young blond pretty nurse. Boy, was she grateful?

    And she was carrying about 1,000 eggs, none of them fertilised though. Yet.

  11. iknklast says

    Of course, if the choice is between 147 embryos and a live human woman, the choice is obvious. The woman has no real relevance, so the embryos it is. Can’t have anyone thinking a woman is as important as even one embryo, let alone 147.

  12. says

    I frame my answer as an infertile who has undergone 8 rounds of IVF. Even if those frozen embryos were my own (and crap what I wouldn’t give for 147 frozen embryos!) I would save the child. I would then probably burn to death going back in for the embryos, but they aren’t a child.

    It truly saddens me to see Canadian legislators jumping on this bandwagon now too.

  13. =8)-DX says

    the 145 embryos or the baby?

    Not 147? What happened to the other 2? Oh I guess the person dropped them when their reality-check kicked in and they will rush off to save the baby instead!

    Either way this is a bit odd, a law like this wouldn’t change how people think of babies vs embryos, it would just place absurd restrictions on women and medical personnel, and I don’t think even the proponents would want the law to add 9 months to your legal age.

    Sad this stuff is still a matter of debate. I want my futuristic Utopia: forget the jetpacks and hovercars, what about the universal societal rejection of religion!

  14. Mark says

    There’s no guarantee that any of the frozen embryos would survive a thawing process. It’s likely that many would but no guarantee. The baby however is quite alive and well so you’d be playing the odds so to speak. Imagine the same scenario with 50 people on life support and one dude with a broken ankle. You’d feel immediate guilt about the one person but much better if the other 50 ended up recovering.

  15. samanthag says

    They do charge to keep frozen ones frozen. I had a couple of them after my GIFT procedure. About a year after my surgery, I got a letter. I could either pay to have them kept frozen, have them just thrown away, or have them used in research (I assumed stem cell at the time).

    I chose the research. I hope they were used in stem cell research.


    P.S. I’d save the real-live squalling infant.

  16. evilDoug says

    And if the embryos are saved – what then? If they are persons and cannot be implanted, must they be kept frozen for eternity, or will god send a courier to pick them up? Is disposal of them murder if done by an individual, or execution if done by the state? What are the consquences of attempting implantation of multiples if it is known beforehand that most will not survive? It seems pretty clear that a total ban on in-vitro fertilization is the only solution for the future, but still doesn’t deal with any embryos that are in cold storage at the time the law is passed.

    Does this god thing have a limited supply of souls to issue? No recycling? Can’t souls fly off to heaven and eternal happiness directly from a polystyrene dish? Why hasn’t god issued an addendum to the manual to cover this stuff?

    • JohnnieCanuck says

      I’d have to hold my nose, but I guess I’d have to save the Pope.

      My nose, not the Pope’s.

  17. JanaTheVeganPiranha says

    In the case of the pope I’d save the embryos- it’s what He’d want, right?

    i am horrified. In a land where Citizens United still stands, and SIX, count ’em SIX of our Supreme Snort justices are catholic, this is no laughing matter. This is the theocratic takeover strategy, and it looks fairly formidable. Just look at how many truly ignorant people take this matter so serious- they think this really matters to God, poor simple fools.

  18. nazani14 says

    Establishing the “true birth” date is going to be rough. The Catholic family planning book (quite informative, actually,) says some of those sneaky sperm can survive for 6 days after ejaculation.

    People in retail should look out for these “personhood” amendments. It opens the way for any woman who purchased alcohol or tobacco at your 7-11 to sue you if she miscarries. You’d pretty much have to assume that any female between 12 and 50 could be pregnant. Waiver-mania ensues.

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