It is the sincerely held belief of some that fertilized eggs are people. That's why Evangelical Christian pro-lifers like the good folks at Hobby Lobby are vehemently opposed to any form of birth control that might possibly interfere with the implantation of the blastocyst in the lining of the uterus. In their view, those kinds of contraceptives murder fertilized eggs. Evangelical Christians also believe all people have souls, thus logic dictates each fertilized egg must have a soul. When they die, do their souls go to heaven? According to church tradition, they qualify under the "age of accountability" clause. So for those who believe fertilized eggs are people, the clear answer is yes, fertilized eggs go to heaven when they die. I'm curious to know if the personhood adherents realize how many fertilized eggs they will be sharing space with in heaven for eternity. If fertilized eggs go to heaven when they die, heaven's going to be super crowded!
Human fertilized eggs, aka "zygotes," have some serious QA issues. It might come as a surprise to many to learn that "two-thirds of all human eggs fertilized during normal conception either fail to implant at the end of the first week or later spontaneously abort." And conception isn't an instantaneous event--it is a process that takes place over the course of several days. (See "The Good Egg," Discover Magazine 2004.) At what point in the conception process does God breathe a soul into a fertilized egg? Does the zygote get its soul the instant the sperm penetrates the egg, or 6 days later IF the blastocyst actually hatches and THEN manages to attach to the uterus? And once attached, there's a good chance the blastocyst will spontaneously abort days, weeks, or months later. When does God create a person with a soul? Day 8 post-ovulation seems like an okay bet, but to be on the safe side He should probably hold off injecting the soul for 12 weeks, because the risk of miscarriage goes down to 3-4% after that. Regardless of the timing, this process seems reprehensibly wasteful of zygotes and souls if you ask me.
Let's lay aside for a moment the issue of soul conservation and consider the carnage taking place inside women's reproductive systems every day. It is estimated that 108 billion people have lived on this planet, which means that 216 billion of our fertilized egg brethren never made it out alive! Thank God they are all in heaven, but where are the funerals???? Can we at least erect a monument and have a memorial service for these 216 billion forgotten people?
Another good question is, "Why aren't we doing anything to save the lives of these innocent people?????" At 150-200 million deaths per year, spontaneous abortion is by far the number one killer worldwide! (see top ten causes of death, WHO) Are we all Christian Scientists on this issue, sitting on our hands trusting God's will be done? Why aren't we looking for a cure?
Most of the inspiration for this diary comes from an article in the American Journal of Bioethics titled, "The Scourge: Moral Implications of Natural Embryo Loss." The author concludes, as I do, that people who claim to believe that a fertilized egg deserves the same moral status as an adult human being don't behave as they should if they really believed their own claim:
A true believer in the Claim should be deeply interested in the terrifying Conclusion and should act to alert others to the existence of this Scourge..... However, there has been no such call from the proponents of the Claim....It could not be enough to merely reach personal satisfaction on the matter, for with 200 million lives per year at stake, it would surely be a matter for heated discussion in the journals or in the Church. This marked lack of curiosity about what is claimed to be of immense importance suggests that even now, few people really believe that full moral status begins at conception.
It has been argued that birth control actually prevents the deaths of fertilized eggs, and there is debate as to whether or not natural family planning methods like the rhythm method increase the number of deaths from spontaneous abortion:
You would think that folks who want to prevent the deaths of fertilized eggs would encourage the use of contraceptives and condoms over dangerously questionable family planning methods like the rhythm method. Their behavior seems really wrong-headed all the way around! It makes me wonder if all this fuss isn't really about fertilized eggs at all, and maybe it's really about certain people wanting to be the boss of me.
In closing, we should return to the question of whether fertilized eggs go to heaven. Perhaps our "pro-fertilized egg" friends might want to reconsider their beliefs about fertilized eggs being people, having souls, and getting into heaven free with that age-of-accountability ticket. Their heaven is jam-packed with 216 billion nice enough but probably super boring fertilized egg people.
6:28 PM PT: Wow! Rec list! Thanks everybody! Your comments have been absolutely brilliant and frequently hilarious. I hope everyone takes the time to read them. Great points about the souls of snowflake babies, identical twins, vanishing twins, parasitic twins, etc. There are lots of smart and thoughtful people here at DailyKos!