DOI 10.1377/forefront.20221115.197815 ">

A Freezer Chest Of Frozen Embryos: ‘Men And Women Of Good Conscience Can Disagree’

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Faced with saving a hypothetical injured woman or 100 frozen embryos, the essay author argues that even if life or personhood begins at conception that does not mean that pre-natal lives and post-natal lives are of equal value or that state laws must embrace the equality of all human life or protect pre-natal life.

The assignment of different values to different stages of life is very much a part of existing law and policy, reflected in the common law of homicide, the Model Penal Code, the allocation of organs to transplant patients, the allocation of scarce medical resources, and the law of damages. However, while we are forced to assign different values to different lives in a variety of contexts, acknowledging that process of valuation makes us uncomfortable precisely because it cannot claim any basis in objective truth. If the state is to give priority to the protection of an embryo or fetus against the desire and well-being of a pregnant woman, then it must properly be seen as a choice that prefers (and is driven by) the moral intuition and religious obligations of some over the moral intuition and religious obligations of others. Giving absolute priority to the well-being of the pregnant woman over that of a fetus can be defended on secular philosophical grounds, as brilliantly demonstrated by Judith Jarvis Thomson; free exercise grounds; and, on the basis of religious doctrine (and therefore must be protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).