Froma Harrop: What about embryos?

Froma Harrop

Such is the state of the Republican Party that only eight of its 210 members in the House of Representatives voted yes to a bill protecting the right to contraceptives. We’re talking about birth control.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican, denounced the bill as a “Trojan horse for more abortions.”

Start with the obvious. Contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions. The number of abortions in this country has also declined steadily over the past 40 years, which can be attributed to the increasing use of contraceptives.

Other Republicans complained that the Democrats only put the Birth Control Protection Act for show. After all, no state currently bans contraceptives. One might agree, except that Judge Clarence Thomas just wrote that the thinking behind repealing Roe v. Wade through the Supreme Court could also apply to contraceptives.

Some have opposed Roe on the grounds that Congress, not the courts, should have enshrined a national abortion right. Well, that’s the approach that the Democrat-controlled House just took on contraceptives. She passed a law guaranteeing the right to birth control.

With Republicans taking this path, one has to ask, “What about embryos?” As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began with fertilization. An embryo is a fertilized egg.

Fertility clinics discard thousands and thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That’s because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves the collection of 10 or more eggs, with only one or two implanted in the mother. Many countries even require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period of time.

Shouldn’t states that declare human embryos require clinics to keep or close all unused embryos? Frozen embryo storage costs can exceed $1,000 per year.

In the opinion on Roe’s ouster, Judge Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys “potential life” and the life of an “unborn human being.” Opponents of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and egg are potential life even before they meet.

Then there’s embryonic stem cell research, which shows promise in beating medical scourges like Alzheimer’s and heart disease. The procedures require the destruction of embryos (many of which were donated by IVF patients who didn’t need them).

Thanks to a new therapy using embryonic stem cells, a man afflicted with formerly incurable type 1 diabetes appears to have been cured of his terrible condition. Overjoyed 57-year-old Ohio patient Brian Shelton exclaimed, “This is a whole new life. It’s like a miracle.”

One of the developers was Dr. Doug Melton. In 2001, Melton had to cut his lab’s ties with Harvard University after President George W. Bush banned federal funding for research involving the destruction of embryos. Luckily for mankind, private money was found to help Melton set up a separate laboratory.

Incidentally, Bush never did anything about the IVF clinics that were throwing away unused embryos. But in 2005 he put on a bizarre show in one of them, in which he said, “There’s no such thing as a replacement embryo.” He noted that 81 embryos have already been “adopted” under a special program by a pro-life group “ have been.

Well, that only left about 399,982 unused embryos that were then stored in IVF clinics — embryos that could have helped cure deadly diseases. We can only wonder how many lives would have been saved if medical research had not been hampered for two decades by an obsession with embryos that were discarded anyway.

As halftime approaches, voters might be wondering if they want to bolster a Republican party that thinks so — which couldn’t get even one in 27 members to support something as basic as birth control.

Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. Follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop. You can email to [email protected].


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