Celebrating The Embryo

Cross Rhythms website editor Heather Bellamy is a regular contributor for the local Sentinel newspaper's weekly faith column, Yours Faithfully. Each week a different leader from the local faith communities write the column. Check out what Heather has been saying to the fine people of North Staffordshire.

'When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans there were human embryos in the fertility clinic in the freezer. These embryos were saved and one of the embryos implanted was a successful pregnancy. The baby was called Noah.'

Sharing this story on Cross Rhythms, Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics went on to ask, 'Hands up who wasn't once an embryo', highlighting the embryo's innate value.

The fact that every embryo is a child is something I'm passionate about. My wrestle over infertility has only increased the value I place on the unborn.

A baby's sex is determined at fertilisation. By 21 to 25 days the baby's heart is beating. By 30 days, just two weeks past the mother's first missed period, the baby has a brain of unmistakable human proportions, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, liver and a heart pumping blood he has made himself.

Sadly our consumer society doesn't seem to hold the same wonder and respect.

A Scottish fertility clinic recently said it would soon allow women to genetically screen their unborn children and discard those with defects and abnormalities. Earlier this year the UK's fertility regulator HFEA unveiled a list of 116 different conditions from which doctors can legally destroy embryos conceived through IVF. Many of these are considered minor, non-life threatening, or medically treatable. Pandora Summerfield, Director of the support group Down's Syndrome Scotland, said: 'Selecting out embryos with Down's Syndrome is not acceptable. This takes us into the realms of designer babies.'

Unfortunately the onslaught against our unborn seems to be increasing, with very few speaking on behalf of those hidden from our eyes and fewer still willing to listen.

In a crass move employees are being offered free abortions and free sterilisation along with reduced gym membership fees as staff perks by one of Britain's leading abortion providers, Marie Stopes International.

It grieves me to see babies treated as products to be discarded. Just as sickening are fertility clinics managing infertility treatment as a business with the associated marketing and promotion, rather than it being healthcare.

On Mother's Day this year an initiative between a US and a UK fertility clinic focused on the marketing of human eggs to UK infertility patients. There was a seminar in London where one of the attendees was to be 'awarded a free single donor egg IVF cycle' as an added commercial incentive to attend the seminar. We're now raffling human life.

Incredibly this sort of trading in eggs isn't an isolated incident. Women could be paid up to £800 for donating their eggs to fertility clinics under a controversial new proposal from the UK's fertility regulator aimed at dealing with the shortage of egg and sperm donors. However, critics have warned that the proposal neglects the risks associated with donation.

In a recent conversation about IVF a friend said, 'I don't think I could ever give someone one of my eggs, it would be like giving them one of my children'. I couldn't agree more!

I'm so glad my husband and I were created despite our fertility problems. I'm equally thankful no-one aborted my mother-in-law despite her breast cancer gene. My family also wouldn't be without my handicapped cousin.

I love the awe of life that David, a Psalmist had, 'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place...your eyes saw my unformed body.'

No-one is perfect, but we're all wonderfully made and every embryo is worth celebrating. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.