Key Facts – Embryo and Religion
- The embryo is human life, created in the divine image, and so worthy of the special dignity given to the rest of mankind.
- Jesus Christ was God Himself in human form.
- God therefore became an embryo when He took the form of the embryonic Jesus Christ, growing in Mary’s womb.
- The Catholic tradition places an emphasis on protecting the unborn throughout it’s teachings: mainstream Catholicism is against abortion and embryonic stem cell research of any kind.
- The mainstream Hindu view is that deliberate destruction of an embryo is homicide.
- The destruction of an embryo interrupts this process of reincarnation because according to traditional Hinduism, the soul is reborn from its previous life at the moment of conception.
- There is a minority view that Research would then be acceptable right up until the 7th month, as the embryo is not a person until this age.
- The fertilised egg is has value and the potential to develop into a human being but it is not a human being.
- The fertilised ovum in a petri dish is not the same as a fertilised ovum in a women’s uterus.
- There is a distinction between early pregnancy (first 40 days) and later pregnancy.
- The majority view in Islam is that “ensoulment” occurs after 120 days.
- Some, including the Maliki school, argue that ensoulment takes place earlier.
– Stem cells
- Acceptable due to its theaputic potential
- Before implantation a fertilised egg can not survuve and develop into a human and is not fully human
- Supernumery embryos cannot be donated to other couples so can or should be used research
- Creating human embryos soley for research is prohibited
- The embryo is alive and as such is deserving of care and respect.
- The embryo is not the same as a human being outside of the womb.
- Life does not begin fully until birth.
- Terminating a feotus is not murder, but it has interests to be respected.
– Stem cells
- There is a religious imperative to strive to emulate God, specifically to heal.
- There is a distinction between correcting a defect and trying to “improve” on Gods creation.
- Generally fine with adult and umbilical cord stem cells.
- Traditionally, the embryo becomes a foetus at 40days.
- Intervention with a post-implantation embryoinc tissue is forbidden unless there is a threat to the mother.
- Most Protestants are in favour of embryonic stem cell research but they limit it to embryos produced for reproductive purposes, not older than 14 days.
- There is some divergence within the Protestant traditions. The large Baptist denomination is wholly against research.
- You can be a Protestant and use your faith to support or oppose embryonic stem cell research.
- The foetus is due respect
- The foetus is not a human being
- One should act to maximise the average happiness
- One should act on the principle of “do as you would be done by”
- The creation of life is the will of God
- God gave humans intellect
- Children should only be conceived in marriage
- Actions should not be motivated by ego, pride or greed
- The main Sikh position on on personhood is that life begins at conception.
- In the cycle of reincarnation, a stream of consciousness from a previously deceased comes from the moment of conception and is a step towards nirvana
- Therefore abortion and embryo interventions such as IVF and PGD is problematic for many Buddhists.
- Some believers adopt a rather utilitarian stance prefering to focus on the relief of suffering and the benefit to parents of IVF or PGD above the sacrifice of an embryo.
- There is a significant influence of both good and bad Karma on the developing embryo and Buddhists believe that Karmic influences can affect gene expression / health and viability of the foetus.