Crises, Tidings, & Revelations: Children Born of the Dead

How would it feel to find out one day that your biological mother was an aborted fetus? It sounds like the premise of an implausible science fiction horror story, but researchers at Edinburgh University have used mice to develop a new technique that could allow eggs from aborted female fetuses to be implanted in the wombs of infertile women.

Though human application is several years away, and still subject to a decision by the British Medical Association, it would mean a lucrative new avenue for profit in the multi-billion-dollar abortion industry. This technique could mean a rich supply of donor eggs for us by infertile couples, postmenopausal women looking for belated pregnancies, or couples looking for “designer babies” to suit their preferences or circumstances.

Science appears determined to give new meaning to the term “pro-choice.” And if we look at things only from the viewpoint of the prospective parents, it may seem all to the good. The carcass of unwanted life becomes the source of a life that will be loved and cherished. The pain of the aborted child lays the foundation for the happiness of those who might otherwise never know the joy of parenthood. Scientific technology brings life from the dead. It’s not quite the miracle of Lazarus, but why not?

Of course, there is the question of how these children of death will see themselves, how they will feel when they think about the anonymous, dead being from whom they drew one vital half of their genetic potential. Perhaps they will blithely ignore the existential implications of their origins, embracing the beings who raise and nurture them as the sole and authentic sources of their personality. Perhaps they will be haunted by the ghosts of those who never were, intrigued or tormented by the mystery of their unfulfilled reality. More ominous, though, is the possibility that some will feel unjustly used when they discover that in them lives the orphaned potential of a mother slain in the womb and discarded without pity or respect. I doubt that only tender consciences will be produced by such a thought.

We don’t need to indulge in such psychological speculations, though, to see that development of life from the eggs of dead female fetuses raises a rather embarrassing logical dilemma for the advocates of abortion. We know that it is morally wrong, and a violation of basic human rights, to kill an innocent human being. If abortion is not a human rights violation, we must assume that the fetus being aborted is not a human being. What then is the status of the egg taken from that fetus? If we take an egg from a horse, it is an equine egg not a human egg. If we take an egg from a dog, it is a canine egg not a human egg, and so on for all nonhuman creatures. If the fetus is nonhuman, doesn’t it follow that the egg that comes from the fetus is not human? So when we cross this egg with sperm from a human male, do we have a human being, or a hybrid of something human and something nonhuman? The question is logical, but our common sense declares it absurd. Without question, we assume that the egg taken from the fetus is a human egg.

But if a fetus can be a mother, how can we deny it is a human being? Every time scientists develop a child using an egg taken from an aborted female fetus, they will be proving beyond doubt that they have violated the most basic human right of its mother. It will be clear that there is no contradiction between the rights of the mother and those of the child, for in the seed of childhood lies motherhood and fatherhood and all the deep, mysterious potentials that make for our humanity. If it helps us to understand this fact, the breakthrough in Edinburgh may prove to be a breakthrough for humanity after all.


  • Alan L. Keyes

    Alan L. Keyes is a member of the Foreign Policy Planning Council staff of the State Department. The views and conclusions presented in this article are solely those of the author, and should not be interpreted as representing an official view of the U. S. Department of State or the Reagan Administration.

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