The latest Reader’s Digest (September 2017) has the click-bait worthy “13 Mind-Blowing Discoveries Scientists Made This Year.” Though I must confess my mind remained relatively calm, the 12th one did catch my eye:
“A tool to repair DNA in embryos. Chinese scientists devised a gene-editing tool that may eliminate certain disease-causing mutations in the DNA of human embryos. It is the first such technology to be used on viable human embryos and could one day help prevent babies from inheriting serious genetic diseases. But it has already raised ethical concerns about the potential to effectively design children – and alter the genetic heritage of humankind.”
I note the following:
- This is the DNA of something living, not something that will potentially live.
- The DNA being repaired in human embryos (unborn children) is the DNA of a human being. There has been a diagnosis of a serious genetic disease that is passed on from one human being to another. Not from a human being to a blob of tissue or to something that may or may not vaguely have personhood. It’s what human parents pass on to human babies. The distinctive embryo/baby language used in the article may be helpful in identifying the stage of life the baby is in, but there is no ontological difference between the child mentioned with both those terms.
- The repair done in utero will be a part of a 10-year-old’s history or a 70-year-old’s history. There is a unity to his or her life that begins before birth. What happens to this unborn baby happens to the person whom that baby was, is and will be. A 50-year-old who had this kind of treatment probably won’t say, “Before I was a baby (or a human or a person) I had this treatment…” They will likely say, “Before I was born...” Before I was born.
- The DNA being repaired is not the mother’s or the father’s. Neither one is affected by this. It is the DNA of a unique, separate human being. This is not something done to the mother’s body; it’s done in the mother’s body to the baby’s body.
There is a unity to human identity that begins at conception. The story of our life begins in the very first moments, and every stage adds chapters. Abortion does not stop a story from starting; it ends a life story that has already begun.