Recently, I wrote an article paralleling the evils of abortion with the evils of slavery. In it, I cited three commonalities exercised by the perpetrators of both: dehumanization of the victims, authoritative exploitation over the victims, and attack on the defense and the defenders.
Ironically, last month, a Virginia judge ruled in favor of declaring human embryos as property to be bought and sold, re-implementing the dehumanization of and authoritative exploitation over human beings into law. This decision was made after divorced couple Honeyhline and Jason Heidemann were having qualms over who got to decide what to do with their frozen embryos, conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
When the couple first split in 2015, they drew up a contract confirming that they “own any stored embryos jointly.” Now, Honeyhline wants to move forward with implantation. Jason, however, asserts that implanting the embryos “would force Mr. Heidemann to procreate against his wishes and therefore violate his constitutional right to procreational autonomy.”
Their case was heard by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard Gardiner. In his initial opinion, Gardiner argued in favor of Jason, stating that Honeyhline could not claim custody of the embryos since they cannot be bought or sold. Honeyhline’s lawyer, Adam Kronfield, requested that the judge reconsider his decision.
This led to Judge Gardiner looking back to earlier, antebellum versions of Virginia property law used to solve custody disputes over slaves. He then concluded that embryos could be viewed as property under the law, just as slaves were.
“As there is no prohibition on the sale of human embryos, they may be valued and sold, and thus may be considered ‘goods or chattels,’” Gardiner wrote.
In response to the decision, the president of the Old Dominion Bar Association, Solomon Ashby, said, “I would like to think that the bench and the bar would be seeking a more modern precedent.”
Maybe, but why would the bench and the bar need to when the precedent is so clearly on point? This haunting specter brought back into the light by the Virginia court system proves that the parallels between dehumanizing a slave and dehumanizing a preborn child cannot be escaped.
The inevitable downhill slide of insisting that either embryos in a freezer or fetuses in the womb are not precious human lives worthy of protection has now resulted in buying, selling, and trading human beings as if they were a bank stock or artwork or a cow or, yes, a slave.
The implications of this ruling are potentially significant on such issues as autonomy, parental responsibility, and the value of all lives, not just those in the nascent stages.
If other judges also conclude that human beings are “property” using the same legal reasoning as Judge Gardiner, what does this mean for the pro-abortionists who scream “my body, my choice?” If embryos are considered “property,” would it then follow that fetuses in the womb are also “property,” along with born infants and older children? If so, then whose property are they? The mother carrying the child? The egg donor? Both the sperm donor and the egg donor? The parents by contractual agreement and the receipt of a monetary sum?
If a baby in the womb is legally deemed the “property” of the mother carrying the child, does that mean that the baby’s fate is hers to decide at any point? Could she choose to terminate her child soon after birth when she realizes that the child is going to be disabled? Can a woman choose to “sell” her baby to a medical lab for the sum of his or her aborted parts?
If the child is “property” and a woman chooses to bring him or her into the world, does that absolve the father of any financial responsibility for the child’s care since the mother “owns” the child?
These are ghoulish scenarios but no more so than during slave times when human beings were bought, sold, brutalized, and discarded according to the whims of an “owner.” This ruling, as with the cognitive dissonant reasoning supporting the “right” to abortion, shows that authoritative exploitation continues to be at play as the sanctity of human life is rejected and demeaned for the sake of greedy, selfish adults.
What Ashby calls a “more modern precedent” is really an archaic solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Not only does this case reveal the double standard within the pro-abortion camp, but it also exposes the ethical problems relating to IVF.
If life truly begins at conception — and it does — then it is unethical to conceive a baby and freeze its development at the discretion of parents who believe they are entitled to have the child they want, when they want it.
Jason Heidemann’s mistake in claiming that his ex-wife’s decision to implant the embryos would force him to “procreate against his wishes” is that the baby has already been “procreated.” If it were not for the society that views children as a commodity “owned” by adults, those babies would have never been frozen, and Jason and Honeyhline’s custody battle would look very different. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable in our society continue to be subjected to the most inhumane treatment.
A story recently came out about the plans of heiress and reality television star Paris Hilton to expand her family. She already has a boy, but, to her thinking, the family would not be complete until she also had a girl. Hilton used IVF to procreate her children, which resulted in 20 little boys — all unwanted since they were the “wrong sex.”
Because the embryos aren’t seen as lives but property, or in this case “unwanted” property, Hilton is free to do with them what she wishes, whether to donate them to research or another family or to destroy them. (If Judge Gardiner’s legal reasoning takes hold across the judicial landscape, though, she would also have the option to sell them to the highest bidder.)
This is the issue with the commercialized IVF industry. It purposely creates disposable human beings at the wishes of the consumer.
What a new and expanded form of eugenics our society is now encouraging.
Sadly, the idea of buying and selling human embryos is not exactly new, at least in the consumer realm. An Australian company called Baby Bee Hummingbirds allows couples to turn extra IVF embryos into keepsake jewelry for purchase — or, as Desiring God contributor Abigail Dodds put it, they make trinkets out of discarded children.
As troubling as all of this is, it affirms that the mentality which led to slavery is the same mentality which has led to abortion. Regardless of how innocent keepsake jewelry may seem, the entire premise ignores that frozen embryos are human beings deserving of life. The IVF industry consistently disregards the value of human life, and Judge Gardiner’s ruling now says they have the legal right to do so.
As Christians, we know that all human beings, from the moment of conception, have been made in the image of God and are deserving of protection and dignity. And we must shout this truth to a world that has once again become blind to it. Whether it is families who are burdened by the guilt of freezing babies or mothers who don’t yet realize the implications of having “chosen” to kill their own child, we must be ready and equipped to point them to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than ceding ground to a godless world which commodifies children and views them as property to be bought and sold.
Our culture is confused and is becoming even more so as it is inundated with a subjective and godless morality. We must be the beacon of truth that stands guard against the lies that embryos aren’t human beings or that any human beings are “chattels” that can be assigned a monetary value for the purpose of buying and selling them.
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Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.