Letter to teenagers making love embryos

Dear Ms. and Mr.,

Happiness comes easier to those who avoid being self-destructive; seldom will anyone hurt you more than you hurt yourself.

Life replication is an awesome and wonderful process but the real reverent moment was at the beginning of life over three billion years ago. Reproduction is now as simple as dropping a seed in the ground, pollinating a flower, or having sex. As you have discovered, pregnancy happens all too easily. And no wonder; females are born with 40,000 ovum (eggs) and the male provides over 400 million sperm with every discharge. Depending on which sperm fertilizes which egg, a couple can procreate one of 160 billion possible offspring. The other billions of potential individuals are washed out by nature.

Despite wars and diseases and starvation, we continue to increase human population by a billion people every ten years. At our present rate of baby-making, human flesh would replace the mass of the universe in 7000 years. That's impossible of course, but no less bizarre than the dead-end doctrine that rescuing embryos is more important than rescuing humankind.

There isn't anything unique about the monthly live ovum or about the live sperm or about their combination. When embryos miscarry, as a third of them do within days of conception, we don't hold funerals because they never experienced "life". Early miscarriages, naturally occurring or induced, are not offensive to human decency and should not be cause for guilt or loss of dignity. (RU486 is safe.)

Our polluted ecosystems, natural resources, and social structures are no longer rejuvenating, sustainable, or manageable within our exploding population. In your lifetime, 25% of all plant and animal species will be rendered extinct. Today, like every day, 38,000 surplus children (those neglected, battered, or starved) will die. An overabundance of life is destroying our habitat and our civility. As citizens of earth, your decision-making should include concern for these conditions.

The embryo has no consciousness, no pain receptors, no self-awareness. It has the potential for being much more of course, but it isn't. An acorn is not an oak tree; an embryo is not a child. The embryo consists of developing cells and DNA codes. Your dilemma is to weigh this "potential" against your real and present circumstances. It will help if you think in terms of standard dictionary definitions that describe "embryo" and "person."

Unless it is dearly wanted and can be offered a "life," it is unethical to continue to gestate an embryo. Giving birth to a baby isn't the same as offering it a life. It costs $200,000 to raise an American child to age 18. It is important that a child begin life with prenatal care, two capable, nurturing parents, and a loving extended family.

Unwanted, maltreated children often become gang members, welfare charges, homeless or prisoners, and judging by their suicides, some wish they had never been born. Nine out of ten inmates in California prisons were born to teenagers. If your pregnancy is a problem now, there is an increasing likelihood of tragedy in later years -- even with adoption.

Each year in the United States, one million teens suffer the pangs of childbirth, and for most this begins a life of poverty. Don't feel guilty about removing this embryo -- this potential. Embryos aren't babies. Extending your mistake out over your lifetime can destroy three lives and it is from this perspective that your sentiments, life-ethics, and your rational thinking are best directed. We best endow the future by seeking a quality life for wanted children. Enjoy your youthful years. Guilt sometimes comes from irrational indoctrination, but if you fear that you would feel guilty about an induced miscarriage, balance that by thinking globally and into the future.

A female has over 400 chances in her life for producing a baby. Just one offspring is a reasonable limit in our explosive world. Is the embryo that you now bear, the one for which you can provide the best health care and education, the best chance for a productive, wholesome, happy life?

This is the text of a letter published by Quest & Controversy, a publication of Imagine a World of Wanted Children, a division of the American Humanmist Association.

© Copyright 1993 by the American Humanist Association

Please feel free to reproduce and distribute this material as widely as you please. For more information, contact:

Imagine a World of Wanted Children
P.O. Box 1001
San Jacinto, California
92581 USA

Tel / Fax (909) 658-2491

Go Back to Shy David's Secular Humanism Page.