William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Jaime E. Conde


The disposition of cryopreserved supernumerary embryos has become a divisive issue that puts to test the tenets of the "culture of life" promoted by the Vatican and President George W. Bush. The Bush administration has spent millions of dollars to promote "embryo adoptions" while imposing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. On the other hand, contemporary Catholic moral theologians and philosophers disagree on the question of the morality of embryo "rescue" or "adoption" because the Church strongly opposes in vitro fertilization, the donation of gametes and embryo cryopreservation, as evidenced recently during the Italian fertility law referendum.

President Bush has relied on ideologically charged "culture of life" rhetoric to promote "embryo adoptions" as the only alternative to dispose of cryopreserved ("frozen") human embryos. In doing so, he has alienated an important segment of Christian pro-lifers who support embryonic stem cell research. From a Catholic perspective, the "culture of life" as conceived by Pope John Paul II vigorously opposes stem cell research, but embryo donation has not found its place within the Catholic "culture of life," and substituting the word "adoption" for "donation" does not solve the perplexing dilemma.

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