Turning ‘Extra’ Embryos Into Jewelry: We Must Stop Manufacturing Children

By Jennifer Hartline Published on May 5, 2017

I could not swallow the horror I felt as I read this story. Thanks to a jewelry company called Baby Bee Hummingbirds, a couple in Australia has turned their seven “extra” embryos conceived through IVF into a necklace. Yes, you heard me. The mother is wearing her babies around her neck.

Most people do not understand why the Catholic Church refuses to approve the practice of in-vitro fertilization, or any form of artificial insemination, or any method of conception at all apart from sexual intercourse. The Church teaches that all such means of conception are morally wrong. The reasons are profound, thoughtful and humble. If you’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth, read this, especially CCC 2375 – 2378.

But allow me to say it succinctly this way: What you manufacture, you own. It belongs to you, and you call the shots with authority. What you manufacture, you can control.

THAT is precisely why it is morally wrong to manufacture children. Many people will object to the word “manufacture” here, but it’s the only accurate term. Babies are ordered up and created in a lab, purchased and paid for by adults who have commissioned their creation. That’s manufacturing.

God has ordained marital intercourse as the method and means of procreation.

Babies are not ours to control. Human life is not ours to manipulate in that way. We have no right to create life, keep it in some suspended animation, and then decide to destroy it whenever it suits us. We are not God.

We do not own our children. We have no claim on their lives. It is not for us to decide whether they live or die and when. The Lord God is the giver and creator of life. We can only receive our children as gifts. No one can demand a gift, or claim any right to receive a gift.

Assuming the Prerogative of God

It is proper and good for a husband and wife to desire children, since that is precisely the purpose of marriage. Children are the gift and fruit of marriage; the visible result of married love as God intended. I don’t minimize the heartache and pain of couples who are unable to naturally conceive a child. Such infertility is a heavy cross to bear.

Even so, we are not justified in using any means necessary to create a child. Our longing is not a free pass to assume for ourselves the prerogative of God.

But, you may say, God has blessed our modern medicine with such amazing capabilities! How could it be wrong to avail ourselves of what modern medicine can do?

I am glad that “disposing of them” was unimaginable. But really, are those seven babies any less dead and disposed of now?

Because God has ordained marital intercourse as the method and means of procreation. It should be evident by now that bad things result when we separate sex from babies. When we believe we have the right and authority to decide when a child is conceived, how a child is conceived, and even whether or not that conceived child gets to keep living, we have grievously sinned.

We are no longer seeing the child as a human person; a gift from God. Rather, we have turned the child into a thing we can manipulate according to our own desires. We take the child as our right to have or not have as we wish. We demand new life, and destroy new life, when it pleases us.

Where’s the Humanity?

This couple in Australia said that donating those embryos “was not an option.” Why not? Why was life not an option? Seven human beings were denied the chance to live, after having been manufactured at their parents’ request, and are now mummified and encapsulated in a crystal heart on a chain. They’ve been turned into an ornament. An adornment. A thing.

See what I mean? What you manufacture, you own. You control. By that thinking, those babies had no inherent, inviolable right to live if their parents did not wish to have them.

The article also says the couple felt “the annual storage fee was an added financial strain, and disposing of them unimaginable.” We’ve made them, but now it’s just too expensive to keep them. So the babies must go away.

I am glad that “disposing of them” was unimaginable. Just typing the phrase “disposing of them” makes me want to vomit. But really, are those seven babies any less dead and disposed of now, hanging around their mother’s neck as an accessory? No, they weren’t rinsed down the drain. But their humanity was not respected.

Babies are Not a Commodity

We cannot afford to be lulled by sentimentalism. This is not honoring of human life. But this sort of thing will become more and more popular, and more people will celebrate this as a beautiful memorial, a truly special way to “keep” those precious babies you just couldn’t let live but didn’t want to “dispose of.”

I’m sorry, but it isn’t beautiful at all. It’s macabre. And I’ll say it — it’s depraved.

No one — absolutely no one — has any right to a child.

We simply must find the courage to recognize how wrong we are to treat human life this way. We may believe our intentions are good and right, but our actions are not justified. We keep pushing the envelope farther and farther, awarding to ourselves more and more power, more and more “rights,” yet we fail to recognize how we dehumanize our children. Pride is urging us to make ourselves like gods, and modern medicine cheers us on.

Just because we can do something, it does not follow that we ought to do it, or that we have any right to do it. Nowhere is this truth more immovable than as it applies to human life. Babies are not a commodity, and we have no right to manufacture them at will. No one — absolutely no one — has any right to a child.

The very same reasoning that approves of IVF condones abortion. They are two sides of the same coin. That will be a bitter pill for many to swallow, and I don’t say that viciously. But we must honestly confront the mess we’ve made.

There should never be any such thing as an “extra” embryo.

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  • Autrey Windle

    depraved;insane; vicious; apt descriptions of the people doing these things. Godless to be kind. Satanic to name who they do serve. It made me sick at my stomach when I read Nancy’s story earlier today on the topic. How can this be allowed? How can these people and the planned parenthood baby-parts buyers be allowed to desecrate these babies in such an abhorring and certainly what should be illegal fashion? I know I’m not supposed to hate or wish people to hell, but this joyous baby murderers are pushing me to my limits of tolerance. God help them and if they won’t let God, let the devil have them in hell sooner than later.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      Autrey, I’m afraid I can’t agree. I don’t wish death and hell on anyone. I don’t really believe you do, either.

      • Autrey Windle

        Jennifer, I said God help them and I meant it; I then said if they won’t let God help them I hope they hurry up and leave our murdered babies alone sooner than later and I observed that they would be leaving for hell if that’s what they chose. That’s the closest I can come to not wishing them to hell directly even though I promise you that they do not care where the children are except around their necks or wrists or hanging from their unrepentant ears.

  • Paul

    “I don’t minimize the heartache and pain of couples who are unable to naturally conceive a child. Such infertility is a heavy cross to bear.”

    Sure you are, plus insulting everyone who has reached out to medical professionals for help with inferility by essentially equating them with the barbaric practice of turning babies into jewelry. Such sweeping generalizations are ridiculous.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      No, I’m really not. Seeking medical help for infertility is not wrong. In fact, there are wonderful doctors today whose mission is to help couples trying to conceive. They’re called NaPro Physicians, and they have a phenomenal success rate. They do it all without IVF or any other artificial means of conception. They’ve also helped countless women with diseases like PCOS and other gynecological issues, all without relying on hormonal contraception.
      Any couple struggling with infertility should seek out a NaPro doctor. They won’t regret it.

      • Michael Kilburg

        My wife and I went to a NaPro doctor in Omaha, NE. After several years of trying and not succeeding, we adopted a child. I’m not indicting NaPro. I strongly recommend it, but it’s not a guarantee of conception.

  • agkcrbs

    Ugh…

    Having already augmented our stymied reproductive hopes with our every natural effort, we continue to spend many prayers that God will grant us the life and healthy prenatal development of what is now our second (and last) IVF procedure and pregnancy. Both times, I believe our doctor selected for implantation all of the apparently viable embryos — 3 out of an initial 5 fertilized the first time, 2 of 3 the second. Both the first time and now this one, one transferred child failed to thrive in the womb, disintegrating early on. The losses troubled us, but our joy is renewed daily because our first pregnancy resulted in our two beautiful sons… and this one (if it comes through) was identified last week with some confidence as a daughter.

    But rather than the usual congratulations and good wishes, here I am “wished to hell” or whatever by a commenter for the miracle that instead has delivered us from the earthly hell of infertility — the suicide, in fact, where means of genetic self-preservation exist but are rejected. That stern wish grows from a desire to protect life, the same desire we have (and seemingly the same desire the couple in the story have), so we can interpret it via its good intent. But if this, too, our prayer for life in our IVF efforts, horrifies and revolts other Christians to the same extent as baby slaughter does, then said Christians are on the path to inevitable marginalization, because no middle portion of society can sympathize with such crushing absolutism.

    There is surely a possible distinction between what we did, (1) attempting to harvest, fertilize, and grow all the entities we reasonably could, and (2) harvesting many, even dozens, of eggs, fertilizing them all, and then discarding perfectly healthy bodies. Then again, had we been more fertile, we might have been in the same position as those in this article, of feeling the need to sacrifice some to save some. Surely, too, there is a distinction between (1&2) seeking offspring even at the potential expense of offspring, and (3) creating offspring through careless reproduction but then willfully destroying them as an escape. Surely the dehumanization here is progressive, not equivalent.

    But I would step back to add, the ethical choice between sterility (that is, no life) and sacrificial fecundity (that is, some life) is already easily made, and not in the way this author puts it in her righteous condemnation of the infertile, whom God has now delivered through medical knowledge. It is self-evidently better to have some children than none — better for family, better for country, better for the soul of one who follows Jesus’ call of godly emulation rather than fearful doctrines calling godliness “prideful” (no such thing exists as prideful godliness).

    Strangely, I cannot wish this knowledge on the author, since it would probably take her own childlessness for her to comprehend it, and I wouldn’t wish that on her. None have the absolute right, the guarantee, of making children, but all have the same right — no, the command of God — to ATTEMPT to make and parent children, a right neither this author nor her pope can take away. She is correct to say that the life still belongs to God, not us. There are still no guarantees with IVF, or with the more common medicine that saves millions of babies today who would have died a few generations ago. If saving and creating human life is playing God, that’s a role we should unhesitatingly step into — although creating life also means creating death with it… two sides of a coin.

    Yes, dead bodies do become “things” (dust, to be exact). Would any waste their effort in the other direction, criticizing people who wore the ashes of their cremated parents or grandparents around their necks? All aspects of regular mortuary science commodify the dead, but where is the Catholic angst? I say, let parents humanize their embryos how they see fit, and exert your good labours for life in better directions.

    • Autrey Windle

      Should we send our parents to the taxidermist and sit them in a chair in the living room or perhaps take them with us to their favorite cafe? Do you really think I find this practice abhorring because I do not believe in IVF? Methinks thou may have a hidden from even yourself agenda.

      • agkcrbs

        And here we return to the difference between the picture/headline, and the actual article. Nobody (so far) has callously stuffed embryos and put them on display, thank goodness. Yet if otherwise harmless people feel culturally validated in putting ashes or any remnants of their dead somewhere, they do it out of love for the departed, not sociopathy. The sociopath is the one who hates his neighbours for their different ways — a sickness filling our entire country. My agenda has been to have children, and God blessed it with possibility. Unlike what this well-meaning author may think, IVF, though an artifice, does not create artificial children. There is still only one means of life, entirely providential: genetic recombination of merged male and female cells. Anyway, I appreciate both your intent and your sarcasm, and I can tolerate people’s sense of disgust, subjective though it be. I trust my own disgust or disappointment will also be tolerated, at those in a great, needless hurry to first single out and condemn differences instead of first bracing upon commonalities. Doing so turns the wise into fools, and creates enemies out of thin air.

        • Autrey Windle

          Which of these things would I have in common with you who want to embrace our commonalities?Are we both fools from wise women, sociopaths or enemies?

          • agkcrbs

            What everybody here seems to have in common with the necklace couple is that none of us sadistically, recklessly kills our own children to serve our lust — despite that some of us temporarily remove female reproductive cells from the body in pursuit of conception, while others have had no such need, or have been taught to consider it wrong. None of us say that people are “just cells”; we all feel the loss of embryos, though some of us are still willing to lose them if it means gaining others who would not live otherwise. We seem to have in common the pro-life label, though there are, for example, pro-life folks who would serve their God by not preventing the destruction of the product of rape, and other pro-life folks who would serve their God by preventing it. Those two groups have the opportunity to turn on each other and make war over such a theological division, but if they do, the aborted children their co-operation may otherwise have spared are to some extent on their heads, too, along with the actual killers. This article would have been better written against abortionists, not willing parents.

        • Jennifer Hartline

          I never said IVF creates artificial children.

          • agkcrbs

            So, if it doesn’t create artificial children, then it’s not an artificial process in the first place. It’s a different environment or delivery method for the same, natural process, the same natural “manufacturing” — with a higher success rate, to hopefully counteract whatever medical condition had bottomed out the couple’s initial success rate. (In the same way, tube-feeding instead of throat-feeding an impaired person may be called an artificial method of nutrition, but it does not change the facts of their digestion.)

            Intentionally separating children from their genetic parents, or separating reproductive acts from reproduction, for the sake of serving lust is a clear moral problem. But separating those acts to contrarily -achieve- the willing reproduction of married parents has no relationship to that problem — the motive and result are opposite, like killing in self-defense is fundamentally, diametrically opposed to killing an innocent in rage, though they may look identical. The Cathechism you referenced (2377) shows at least some vague recognition of this fact by calling married IVF “perhaps less reprehensible” (but, anyway, still bad!).

            It goes on, “Only respect for the link between
            the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human
            being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the
            person.”

            What, in reality, is the conjugal act? We’ve already lost its meaning, if we think skin rubbing against skin is more than the barest, most introductory metaphor (yet still the best metaphor we have) for “becoming one flesh”.

            Conjugation, two becoming one flesh, is actually this: taking a strand of DNA from each of two people, pulling each strand into halves, and then introducing one half from each person so that they recombine, and begin to self-replicate. Except when it culminates in this process, touching people’s skin or making contact with people’s bodily openings is not a serious conjoining; you can separate after that. Fertilization is conjoining. Any baby successfully conceived is already “the fruit of the conjugal act”.

            Maybe the only really necessary trouble for a Catholic is the intentional destruction of embryos (many of which are defective and would naturally self-destruct no matter what, regardless of fertilization method, and more especially the offspring of couples with fertility problems). In this, if you are fortunate enough with IVF to produce multiple viable embryos, more than you can accept, the case can be made for their innate and equal human value. You can either save them for your own future implanting and mothering, or invite increasingly more Catechistic censure by donating them (willfully severing them from parents, for the sake of their siblings’ lives), or by retaining ownership by destroying them (still considering their lives a fair loss for their luckier siblings). To repeat what I have already said, it seems a far more effective moral effort, and more directly connected to this article’s particular concern, to caution the inclined listener against overly stimulating and harvesting eggs than to reject the whole technology, to pitiably pat the childless on the back while forbidding the treatment that is both effective and up-for-grabs for the un-Poped, especially with arguments like, IVF “entrusts [life…] to the power of [doctors … and] establishes the
            domination of technology over the […person]” — a line of dogma that may just as well prohibit all modern medicine. Of course, institutional doctrine is not for the committed individual to pick and choose, but who knows insight a future pope will get?

  • Bryan

    I have always had trouble with this issue. I’m not a woman so in one sense I have no idea what infertility is like. Nor am I or my wife infertile as our two surprises can vouch for us. But I do know at least one couple who had trouble conceiving. I have no idea why or what treatment they went through but they now have child love through some sort of medical procedure. Are they barbarians or immoral sinners because they took advantage of the abilities of medical science?
    So here’s the way I think of it: Early atomic research was trying to figure out a way to harness the power of fission then fusion in a productive way. Along the way the nuclear power was discovered and we have, after many iterations and advances, a reasonably safe and clean way to produce vast amounts of energy that could help us reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. However, we’ve also created the nuclear bomb. Both came from the same initial research and starting point. Both have benefits and consequences. The determining factor, as in most things, is the human will behind them.
    I agree with the author that life is sacred and ultimately belongs to God. And I can see the point about playing God and I agree that that is wrong. Also, I agree that there are those that callously use this or other technologies in cruel or inhumane ways. However, to outright condemn nearly every form of IVF (generically) seems to be akin to the parents who refuse medical treatment for their children because they believe if they pray hard enough, God will heal their child and if the child (or other member of their group) dies, that it was either because God didn’t want to intervene or because they didn’t pray hard enough. I get that the Catholic Church has sound teaching on this but I wonder if the teaching on this subject doesn’t test God in ways we should not test him? IVF and the other types of treatments for infertility certainly can be abused but does that mean that the technology is wrong or that man chooses to do wrong with technology that God has created us with the ability to design?

    • Autrey Windle

      IVF is between the couple and God, but when the ‘Parents’ wear their dead babies as jewelry in the public eye, they better be ready for sincere objection and earned anger for shoving their ‘choice’ in the literal faces of everyone whether they agree or not. Was it wrong of Hussein to cut off women’s heads for honor crimes? Some Muslims may say no, but when he put them on posts in the women’s front yards, he made it a flash point of contempt of him by everyone but the radicals. Wear your children around your neck if you want and it’s legal, but don’t cry like a cornflake if you are criticized for your in my face behavior.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      I hear what you’re saying, and it is a topic fraught with emotion and heartache. Nevertheless, the only reason these “extra” embryos exist in the first place — the reason there are so many, many “extra” embryos frozen in time all over the place — is because they have been created outside the womb, apart from marital intercourse, paid for by adults who wanted one child, maybe two, but not three or four or five….
      Good intentions do not make up for the terrible result. Again, no one has the right to a child. The ability to create them whenever we want, with all these extraordinary medical means, has led us to think we are entitled to have a child when we desire one. But we’re not entitled. In fact, the one with genuine rights is the CHILD! (CCC 2378)

  • mel35

    God will judge. Everyone has a cross to bear. How we accept that cross is for God to judge.
    Killing innocent children is an intrinsic evil, but there is no sin that is greater than God’s Mercy.

  • m-nj

    I am in no way in support of turning embryos into jewelry, but the graphic for this story is blatantly misleading. If you read the original story, the embryos (still likely at the 20-50 cell blastula stage, frozen in a small plastic straw) are first cremated. So what is inside the jewelry is ashes, and nothing coming remotely close to what the story graphic shows. There is no need to inflame emotions more when the actual facts suffice to cause shock and outrage.

    • ROD TOWN

      Good point because I wondered that myself. Yet, in the end, its the same.

    • Autrey Windle

      You are right about the graphic. The actual jewelry is in a photo heading Nancy Flory’s story on The Stream from a few days ago.You are also right that the fact is enough to cause shock and outrage.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      The graphic portrays the reality. A child was destroyed, cremated, and put in a necklace. The child’s developmental stage is beside the point. Saying it’s only ashes in the jewelry helps us forget that we’re talking about a child. A person. We need to be reminded of that horrifying fact.

  • davidrev17

    Jennifer:

    I realize you’re a practicing Catholic when expressing such reasonable & logical emotions (like outrage, righteous indignation etc.) over this issue; and this is no doubt coming from one whose “heart” has obviously been Divinely-granted the necessary [spiritual] “eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands,” what our Heavenly Father thinks, and feels about such matters – notwithstanding perhaps those spiritually lackadaisical brothers & sisters that might’ve approached such issues from a morally relativistic slant, like say situational ethics? However, totally unlike yourself, if you’re implicating only the “lost” at this time in their lives (in blanket-fashion), surely you’re aware they’re virtually lacking in your capacity to understand these matters, in such a black-and-white, absolutist fashion. So how can you expect the lost to conduct their lives according to those Divinely immutable precepts and principles, by which you/we conduct our lives? (Please bear with me for a moment in this too, if you’d be so kind.)

    As I see things, the main challenge with which Christian’s are faced during the 21st-century, at least in my UNlearned opinion, seems to be the cultural implications and tragic consequences – as a precisely correlative causal result – of this entire “war of worldviews” (i.e., Naturalism v. Theism) raging in our midst daily; namely this culture’s prevailing Godless tenets of naturalism, being stuffed-down-the-throats of unsuspecting people just about everywhere one turns these days. And this spiritually toxic undertow has been gaining powerful, inexorable momentum throughout the West ever since post-Enlightenment thought; whose maniacally-driven orchestrating sources amongst us, are “fallen” spiritual creatures referred to as the “spirit of antichrist” operating behind-the-scenes of “fallen” governmental entities, as well as in the “Church.”

    These fallen creatures are highly effective at brilliantly and/or seductively propagating lies too. They have also spectacularly infected many of those within not only the Catholic Church with this Godless naturalistic philosophy, but the professing people of God at large here in post-Christian America during the late 20th, and now 21st centuries. And the respectable surveys continue to empirically buttress this notion of wholesale prophesied apostasy taking place toward the “end of the age.”

    So as it stands now, this spiritual war of Luciferian-inspired ideas (e.g., “doctrines of demons”) promoted as evolutionary naturalism, has been tirelessly propounded here for several decades now – particularly throughout our public education system’s – and we can sure see its tragic effects daily. Yet the reigning foundational (so-called scientific) view of Homo sapiens, from the standpoint of this unguided evolutionary naturalism – stated so often, and eloquently by our brother, Wesley J. Smith – has been identified as “Human UN-Exceptionalism,” meaning during ANY stage of developmental embryology.

    Now, do you notice any difference whatsoever here, between “unguided evolution’s” naturalistic corollary of “Human UN-exceptionalism – as in “save the trees & animals, but kill the children” – compared to what is taught in Genesis 1:24-31; specifically with regard to what had taken place on Day [Hebrew = “yom”] Six, whose fashioning of the first male & female Homo sapiens, represented Almighty God’s crowning achievement, or icing-on-the-cake of creation – notwithstanding current Christian views of His work in Genesis, called Theistic Evolution?? And as you must well know, “ideas do have consequences.” Yet we’ve mind-bogglingly swallowed this stuff up now – hook-line-and-sinker!

    Jennifer, I sure don’t know how much of these issues you’ve had the time to track over the years, but these Godless faith-based, a priori evolutionary assumptions within naturalism, have literally wrought moral anarchy here now – both culturally, and amongst the professing people of God?
    It should also be obvious that these foundational naturalistic tenets are diametrically opposed to the Judeo-Christian view of reality & humanity; meaning through the indefatigable dissemination of this grand naturalistic metanarrative, that biblical reality has since been turned-on-its-head in the U.S.

    The implications of Neo-Darwinian evolution, referred to as “Darwin’s Designer Substitute,” literally demands that Homo sapiens’ emergence, or existence upon planet earth, represents nothing more than “a cosmic accident” of nature’s purposeless evolutionary processes…i.e., nature IS actually believed to be our creator. So I must ask again: what can you expect from a scientific community of individuals in secular “modern medicine,” most of whom probably don’t share your views on this; not to mention regular Church-goin’ folk of whom bizarrely, and incoherently also hold to these nauralistic views of reality?

    And one final observation: you rather curiously kept referring to “we,” in your passionate exhortations to your article’s audience, which was confusing for me; as in were you addressing these potentially “lost” medical moral “IVF” transgressors & parents – as perhaps sharing equal “spiritual footing” with yourself before a Holy God – or was the “we” just encompassing those in the “Church,” of whom might hold “IVF,” abortion etc. in a morally relativistic light, due to a clearly desensitized conscience?

    Thank you for your indulgence, and may God continue to bless you & yours dear sister!

    • Jennifer Hartline

      You can write all of that when you’re really exhausted? What do you do when you’re energized?

  • Jon Belanger

    I agree completely that there should never be embryos that are left permanently in frozen limbo or discarded/destroyed. However, not all IVF procedures result in “extra” ebryos. Some couples using IVF are conscientious about implanting all embryos and giving them each a chance to grow and be born.

  • Dane B

    I am a pawn broker and jeweller. I have bought and sold some of this fetus jewellery and it is exquisitely beautiful. My favourite piece was a cameo set with a fetus of about 5-6 weeks gestation. Each to their own choice I suppose.

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