The Right Loves Genetic Goo more than Babies and Actual People

Karl H Christ
3 min readFeb 26, 2024

The Alabama Supreme Court decided this week that frozen embryos are fully fledged human beings, entitled to the rights and protections that entails. Specifically, they decided, leaning more on scripture than science, that embryos are legal people and that damaging their viability, “killing” them, is legally murder, or at least manslaughter.

Anti-choice activists have, in this incident, further evidenced that they do not in fact give a shit about life or children, unborn or otherwise. The predictable result of legally assigning personhood to embryos used in the process of in vitro fertilization, and making any harm that may happen to said embryos punishable under murder and manslaughter laws, is that IVF will now be virtually impossible to perform in the state of Alabama. No person or institution wants to deal with that. One slip-up with a microscopic bit of goo, and hospitals are dealing with their doctors, nurses, technicians, and other personnel being hit with murder charges? No thank you. They can’t afford to continue practicing the procedure with that terrifying and insane threat hanging over them.

What does scaring IVF doctors, their colleagues, and their employers out of conducting the procedure logically lead to? Fewer children being born. People don’t do IVF because it’s fun and exciting. They do it because they have few or no other options. It’s an expensive, long, stressful, and unpleasant process that might have a happy ending. People do it because they really want to have babies. By making IVF virtually impossible by threatening to charge people with murder for not being able to do the literally impossible task of conducting the procedure flawlessly, they are robbing people of that opportunity. Rather than protecting life and bringing more babies into the world, they’re ensuring fewer births and fewer babies for people who truly want them.

Anti-choice activists, and the self-righteous right-wing in this country in general, rarely seem to know a damn thing about science and medicine, despite, or perhaps as a central cause of, how rabidly they fight to meddle in them. They are also apparently too willfully ignorant to do some quick googling to learn some basic facts. IVF is not a fool-proof practice. It is common for embryos to never come to term or lose viability early in the process. In a 2011 NIH study, “The survival rate was 69% for thawed zygotes, 85% for D3 embryos, and 88% for blastocysts.” Embryos are regularly lost in the freezing and thawing process. Sometimes, none maintain viability. Of those that are viable, only a small percentage are actually implanted into a woman’s uterus. What do you think happens to those extra embryos? The number of live births that result from IVF are quite small in relation to the number of embryos that are created at the beginning of the process. Will every one of those non-viable or discarded embryos now result in murder and manslaughter cases?

If the Right is so convinced that these specks of microscopic DNA clusters are legally human beings, then shouldn’t the laws and rights pertaining to them extend beyond whether mishandling them is equivalent to murder? Will every embryo be issued a social security card? Will the “parents” of embryos receive government assistance and tax breaks for every embryo they have frozen? If embryos are frozen for 18 years, will they be considered legal adults, able to vote, smoke, die in foreign wars, and appear in pornographic media?

Those are ridiculous questions because this is a ridiculous premise. Embryos are not people, nor are ova, sperm, zygotes, blastocysts, or fetuses. They are bits of unthinking and unfeeling genetic material that could potentially eventually be people. We live in a ridiculous reality, in a ridiculous country. Sure, for now this particular ridiculousness is contained to Alabama, a state whose greatest claim to fame is as the inspiration for more incest jokes than any other place on Earth. But this won’t stop with Alabama. These people never stop. This case will serve as precedent in future cases, in other state and then federal courts. The Right’s fetishization of unborn genetic goo, alongside their complete disregard for the lives and rights of actual people, will continue to elevate our nation as a global embarrassment, and increasingly cause chaos and suffering for normal, decent folk.