KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A woman in Tennessee gave birth to a baby that was a frozen embryo for decades.
Adoptive mother Tina Gibson gave birth on November 25 to a baby girl named Emma Gibson.
Before being implanted in Gibson's uterus, Emma was an embryo frozen in nitrogen for 24 years.
Gibson was 25 at the time of the implantation. Thus, she was only one year old when the baby girl was conceived in a laboratory.
In photographs taken at the hospital, the newborn's eyes have large, dark pupils.
The thawed embryos implanted in Gibson's body were provided by the National Embryo Donation Center, a Protestant-affiliated non-profit that specializes in "assisted reproduction technologies" such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Generally, IVF involves extracting male and female gametes, uniting them in a laboratory, letting the embryos grow a little while, then sifting out the healthy embryos and artificially implanting them in the woman's uterus.
In vitro fertilization is a bioethics hot-button issue. Catholics believe that life begins at conception and that the natural purpose of the marital act is bringing forth children.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2373 to 2379) is clear in its condemnation of IVF. A child is a gift from God; but IVF, artificial insemination and other such procedures treat babies as a commodity.
IVF violates the natural law by putting up an artificial barrier between the marital act and conception, which God established as each other's means and ends, respectively.
Since life begins at conception, the embryos being artificially introduced to women's wombs are actually tiny human persons. Thus, little human babies are essentially being bought and sold as commodities.
The "leftover" embryos from IVF might be thrown away, experimented on in laboratories or stored in subzero nitrogen freezers for use in later IVF procedures. In the case of the National Embryo Donation Center, this decision is left to the "donors" (the embryos' biological parents), many of whom gave over their gametes after deciding they were finished having kids.
When IVF is performed and human embryos are left frozen for years on end, the question arises of what to do with these tiny human persons or how to clean up the mess of immorality. The Catholic perspective on this question is not fully determined.
Some argue that the embryos should be kept in storage and left untouched indefinitely. However, this seems inhumane to some.
Others speculate that scientists should leave the embryos in storage for now but try to develop new technologies that would give the embryos a more humane fate. Such technology is years away, but one hypothesis is using artificial wombs to gestate the "leftover" embryos and after full gestation giving the children to adoptive parents.
But such a proposal opens a whole new can of worms. The same technology used to bring the embryos to term could also enable all manner of inhumane experiments to be performed on gestating babies.
Still, others advocate for "adopting" or "rescuing" these abandoned human embryos, using IVF to save those little humans from a slow, eventual death in medical storage. Official Church teaching tends to frown upon this opinion, as it could be argued that this approach uses IVF to solve a problem created by IVF. In other words, the "rescue" option could perpetuate the IVF industry by contributing to it financially and by culturally normalizing it. Furthermore, this opinion makes a very blurry line between what is licit and what is illicit. The goodness or badness of the couple's intention is the only thing separating the goodness of giving a child a home from the grave sin of IVF.