Embryo Jewelry, Vanity, and the Culture of Death

Since the dawn of the in vitro fertilization industry more and more morally problematic situations have arisen. Recently, a story has gone viral about an Australian company who makes jewelry out of “extra” embryos that the parents no longer want. As the world is still coming to the realization that so-called “leftover” embryos are being used for lethal research that serves no benefit to them, this is another example of vulnerable children being used as a commodity.

Firstly, it needs to be addressed that the evil of making a child into a ring or charm is different than donating your child for research. Therefore, it is necessary to briefly break down the moral act of each of these undertakings. Each moral act has three elements to it: 1) the object, 2) the intention, and 3) the circumstances. If any of these three elements are contrary to the good then the act is immoral. So, for example, when the act of using human embryos for research is explored one can see that while the object may be to advance scientific knowledge and the intention may be to save lives, the circumstances are extremely morally problematic since not only must the human embryo be destroyed in order to advance such knowledge, there was the act of failing to implant that child into his mother’s uterus which is what that child truly deserves since, as a human person, he too has a right to develop normally.

While the circumstances remain consistent, the embryonic child must be directly killed in order to make the gem, intentions and objects differ than in the aforementioned case. But as is shown in the above mentioned hyperlinked article, the lady intended for her children to become jewels in order to be “close” to her heart. So the object is clear, she wants her embryonic children to be close to her, but her intention is grossly distorted. She fully intends them to become some perverse form of jewelry. In order to do this these embryonic children must be destroyed. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always a moral evil. It is in this way, this particular act is even more morally repugnant than giving embryos for research. Here, the mother literally adorns herself with the remains of her dead child that she ordered to be destroyed.

This is a form of vanity previously unheard of; the extremes of selfishness that push the boundaries of the Culture of Death further into society’s activities. Parents now have a legal option to destroy their embryonic children in order to adorn themselves with those remains. Vanity is a form of pride, conceitedness. It is an excessive view in one’s appearance or abilities. Here what is being done is the child is literally being reduced to become a trinket in order to make one look more attractive. This is vanity to the farthest reaches since one must deliberately consent to the destruction of their child in order to decorate oneself with that child’s remains.

But this begs a further moral question, how does this reduce the role of parenthood? Parents are noted for being caretakers of their children. Consider the following, “Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2222). One of the first responsibilities of a parent is to recognize the unborn child as a human person made in the Imago Dei. As a human person, like any human person, the unborn child has the right to life. That right is to be respected and therefore it becomes incumbent that children conceived through in vitro fertilization be implanted into their mother’s wombs. Leaving the child frozen or destroying the child is extremely irresponsible and negligent parenting. These actions seriously indicate an erroneous mindset of the parents. Children, especially at the earliest stages of life, are essentially seen as commodities to either be perpetually frozen, given to scientific research or to be made into human gemstones. Parents become consumers to do as they please with their children. In essence, they do not respect these children as persons.

But a question remains about what to do about this new embryonic jewelry issue. There are certainly a myriad of answers that can be given to this situation. Educating people the moral problems with in vitro fertilization is one solution, but a more immediate culture shifting solution should be properly considered, namely changing the law itself. The simple fact is there are virtually no laws that prohibit the use of human embryos to make products such as these. Furthermore, there is no law prohibiting the buying or the selling of such products either. State legislators and pro-life organizations need to seriously consider legislation that would prohibit such dehumanizing practices. In some ways, legislation such as this may also help the cause of restricting the biotechnology industry in other areas of human embryo abuse. Creating trinkets out of the remains of one’s children is repulsive and it would seem that many would be naturally repulsed by the very idea of it. By passing such an initiative we would begin to highlight the dignity and personhood of the human embryo. In turn, this may help initiatives such as prohibiting the use of human embryos for research and the prohibition of human cloning.

It would seem that the Culture of Death is not merely satisfied with the death of innocent human children, but it even seeks to further destroy the fabric of a Culture of Life by trying to make the intentional destruction of life into a commercial object that one can garnish. It seeks to twist the real beauty of human life and turn it into a perverted beauty of man-made trinkets. This new horror needs to be halted before it takes a depraved hold on society. Life is truly a gift from God, not something to be trivialized in a ring.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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