05/26/2005 10:52 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

President Bush and the Blastocyst

Bush is the reality show President. Not only is he kissing babies, he's symbolically kissing blastocysts. He put on an amazing show on Tuesday surrounded by adorable infants and children who were adopted as embryos thanks to The Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program of The Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency. Who can doubt that encouraging infertile couples adopt embryos is a good thing? This is a no brainer (even if you're not Christian). But until Bush and Laura themselves adopt all the embryos that might otherwise be doomed to waste their sweetness on the desert air, his blastocyst reality show will be show and tell and nothing more.

If every three-day-old embryo has the legal protection of a human life, how far are we from the time that sperm and egg cells are also protected as incipient human lives? Philip Roth had a spoof on this three decades ago when he imagined the Christian Right outlawing male masturbation on the grounds that it was anti-life. At the time it seemed like slapstick comedy, now we are catching up with Roth's wildest fantasies.

Nature is full of waste. Of all the fertilized blastocysts created for in vitro fertilization only a few actually implant. One female proponent of (Christian) blastocyst adoption, Kate Johnson, had eleven blastocysts implanted before one lived. Do the other ten (which failed to thrive) represent human lives? What about all the eggs flushed away by menstruation in a woman's life? We ovulate many more times than we get pregnant. Any woman who is sensitive to her own cycles knows that each twinge in her lower belly (mittleschermz, the OB-GYNs call it), represents an incipient human life. But that egg may be damaged and never implant or it may never be fertilized, or if fertilized it may die for reasons unknown. Miscarriage is common. Pregnancy is precious and makes one feel like a goddess (unless one throws up for nine months as my daughter did), but it would be nightmarish to have to take care of every blastocyst a woman may create in three decades of fertility. Even women who have six children--like one of my sisters--eventually reach a point where they have more children than they can care for psychologically and financially. While I can empathize with earth mothers and fathers who want to have as many children as possible, even such couples cannot use every blastocyst they create.

The political agenda here is obvious. By exalting the blastocyst, we are diminishing the rights of the mother. Give us a break, George. Your wife had one pregnancy and two daughters. How many blastocysts will you adopt to show you care?