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But this presumes that embryos aren't already persons before they're implanted. Again, my question is: when do you think we become persons?
I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one. In my opinion, a philosophy that allows for a "sliding scale" of personhood will always lead to horrific abuses, as has been shown throughout human history.
You didn't exactly come out and say, but it seems to me that you are saying that embryos are in fact not human beings. That's a valid point of view, although one I don't agree with. Once you've made that determination, it really shouldn't matter whether or not the embryo is outside a woman's uterus or not.
It is also irrelevant whether or not it takes "positive action" for the embryo to continue to develop; that is also true for newborn infants (they must be kept warm, fed, etc., or they will die quite quickly), but I doubt you would suggest that newborns should be harvested.
And the argument that an unused embryo won't last forever seems specious to me: that argument could be made about any one of us in any stage. Consider the prisoner on death row: if not pardoned they'll either be destroyed (executed) or degrade into uselessness (die a natural death). So why not harvest their organs?
In conclusion, I still think the primary issue with abortion or stem cell research is whether or not an embryo/fetus is a human being, a legal person. All other arguments (and yours were good ones, I might say), just cloud the issue and don't get to the heart of things.
Your statement comparing embryos to sperm is either a demonstration of profound ignorance of the process of human reproduction, or else just a willful disregard of fact. When do you think human personhood actually begins?
Let's try a thought experiment. Let's say that there are 10 embryos, all the product of artificial insemination. Five are used to create stem cells and in the process are killed. The other five are "rescued" and implanted in an adoptive mother's uterus and brought to full term.
Now, ten years later, let's imagine that it is decided that the five surviving embryos (now all ten year old children) need to be killed so that their organs can be harvested. By doing this thousands of people's lives can be saved through some revolutionary scientific discovery.
My question: if you are not comfortable with killing the five 10-year old children, why is there a difference between this and killing the five embryos? I'm guessing it gets down to when you think personhood begins. It has nothing to do with the purpose for which the ten embryos were originally created. If that were the case, you shouldn't mind if the 10-year olds are killed since they were the byproduct of artificial insemination and were planned to be thrown away.
If you don't know when personhood begins, wouldn't it be prudent to have an abundance of caution when dealing with matters of life and death?
No, you are confused. The cells extracted from the embryo are grown in a petri dish into a sheet. But the embryo itself is killed in the process.
This still doesn't answer my original question: when in the process from conception to birth do you think the embryo/fetus become a person? That is the ultimate question that must be answered if we are to determine if embryonic stem cell research is ethical or not.
And if the question cannot satisfactorily be answered, in my opinion we should err on the side of caution and declare embryonic stem cell research unethical.
Not really. It is more like what the Chinese allegedly do to some of their prisoners (killing & harvesting their organs). The difference? Cadavers used for medical research are from people who died from some external effect (disease, accident). Embryos used to make stem cells would not die if they were implanted...in fact, they would grow and be born just like everyone else.
So if an embryo is not a person, then when does "it" become a person, in your opinion? Do you know the answer? If you are not sure, then why are you willing to risk being wrong?
Your ignorance is astounding. Please brush up on basic human reproduction before commenting here. Here's a hint: unfertilized egg != embryo.
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