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September 24th, 2017

Insight

Here's to life

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Nov. 28, 2016

It is an all too familiar pattern: In order to do away with human life, it first must be defined as something other than human life -- just property, for example. Which is just what an appellate court in Kansas City now has done. The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled 2 to 1 that embryos are but property, not developing human beings. It is a decision that defies not only biology but the all-too-human tendency to reduce the most complex questions to legalese.


To quote the majority opinion, "We are only required to decide whether frozen pre-embryos have the legal status of children under our dissolution of marriage statutes." Awarding joint custody of this so-called property thus "subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone." Just what these embryos, if allowed to thaw and become adults, might have to say about the court's decision was not reported. All such issues were left in limbo, like these abandoned souls themselves.


So at this point, the score stands Death 2, Life 1. But life itself goes on. The dissenting judge was allowed to have his innings, too. The Hon. James Dowd spoke up to say that "Missouri law makes one thing abundantly clear: The two embryos at issue in this case are human beings with protectable interests in life, health and well-being."

The mother in this case said the majority opinion left her "somewhat disgusted." But she was just getting warmed up. For in her opinion, the judges in the majority "ignored Missouri statutes that say life begins at conception, and I think that's a disgrace for the judicial arena and for the people it's affecting, like me. All of the statutes point to one thing -- the preservation of life. For them to say otherwise is counter to the point."


Her attorney was at least as vocal, asserting that the majority had "essentially created law out of thin air" by treating these embryos as nothing but property. As if anybody who's ever had a child didn't know better. Especially if that youngster grows up to decide whom he or she is going to form a bond with -- marriage certificate or not.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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