If An Aborted Fetus Could Be Frozen Alive (An Abortion Quandry)

I’d vown and sworn I would never start an abortion thread, but I’ve been mulling this over in my head for days. . . .

Hubby and I were debating over dinner, as we love to do (dinner with us is like reading the Dope) and the conversation turned to abortion. I wondered aloud if suddenly a technology for freezing fetuses existed, what would be the potential effects on the abortion debate?

Let’s suppose the technology (relatively painlessly) removes the fetus from the mother and freezes it instantly. Let’s further suppose that this can be done up until, say, the third month of gestation. Storage wouldn’t be much of an issue, because of size, and a bar code could be given to each with the data of the donor (or anonymous, if preferred) so it could be retrieved later, if desired. The fetuses of those who did not wish to retain them could then be stored for use by infertile couples.

Now, the number of couples wanting fetuses would, practically speaking, be a lot less than those which were abandoned. My solution: store them forever, if need be. If there were naturally a limit on how long the tissue could remain viable, it wouldn’t need to be “killed”, it would just die of “old age.” (Assuming that the length that a fetus could be stored would be a comparative number of years to a lifetime-- which I think it might be.)

Going out on a limb: if it did turn out that fetal tissue could be stored for a great length of time, it could be a “Noah’s Ark” of humanity if human fertility should suddenly decline a la “Handmaid’s Tale.”

Considering the amount of money donated to pro-life causes, I don’t think funding would be much of an issue, but I wouldn’t be opposed to using tax dollars to pay for storage units. It’d be like an orphanage.

Hubby, though, was somewhat horrified by the concept of suspended animation. “What if there’s some level of awareness?” he asked. “Can you imagine how horrible that would be?”

“Like Han Solo in the carbonite?” I said, smiling. “Fetus’ brains are not developed enough to have self-awareness.”

“But neither is a toddler’s,” he pointed out. “Think of your neice. What is she? About a year-and-a-half? She still thinks the baby in the mirror is another baby. But freeze her in place for a hundred years, and see what happens. The point is, we don’t know.”

But all that aside, what would be wrong with freezing fetuses indefinitely? Of never allowing it to grow? Is a life taken by abortion if the fetus’ cells die slowly by the corrosive effects of time? Does the amount of time it lasted matter? How can this compare to the Terri Schaivo situation?

So, would this change the abortion debate much if all this were possible? Aside from the ethical issues of suspended animation, I think there still would be, because of many pro-life people’s stance on sexual immorality.

I’ve spoken with many pro-lifers on this issue, and the stance of some is that a person should have to live with the consequences of their sexual activity. Some I’ve spoken to wax nostalgic about the “old days” when a girl and boy were shamed into marrying and raising the child. (Now, I must note at this point that I don’t see this as an oppression-of-women concept, because most of the people I’ve talked to have just as harsh a view of male pre-marital sexual activity.)

In rural America, this is not necessarily nostalgia-- it still happens. I know quite a few families in which something similar has happened. A good number of the girls with whom I went to high school married very soon after graduating, and had suspiciously large “premature babies”.

Now, the problems I see with this, of course, is that a bad marriage is a damn sight worse than having a kid, especially if you have family support. It certainly has the potential to cause a lot more damage in the future.

What happens in most of these situations is that the two young people try to stick it out, and their determination lasts just about long enough for their child to reach their most formative years. Then the pressure just becomes too great. The kid is duly traumatized by the bitter break-up.

Sometimes, they make a go of it-- perhaps not the lives they wanted, but they’re okay. Many times, they’re later agonized to see their own children making similar mistakes.

The people who believe this way generally are the people who are for abstinance-only sex education, and fight birth control programs-- virtually ensuring that the “consequences” are unavoidable.

Would there be opposition from these people as I anticipate? Considering their successes in the way sex education is taught, I imagine their opposition would be formidable.

Considering these two points, do you think if a technology existed, that it would be utilized in the US?

I really don’t think you can freeze a fetus. Period. An early embryo, yes. A mammal at the fetal stage of development? No. The entire body would need to be totally perfused and completely equilibrated in a cryoprotective solvent solution, which helps prevent physical and osmotic damage to cells caused during the freezing of water. That would take a fair amount of time, and while all known cryoprotectants have manageable toxicity to isolated cells or small clumps of cells during the standard cryopreservation process, complex organ systems will suffer severe toxic effects with prolonged exposure. The fetus would die before it could be sufficiently treated to survive the damage caused by freezing.

Come on, we’re pretending!

Don’t confuse us with facts, buddy! :smiley:

Yeah, but that wasn’t really the question, Loopydude. The OP starts with a very important IF.

For me, it’d be a great idea, as long as the biological parents were not responsible for storage and maintenence fees or child support of a thawed and grown embryo. As I’ve stated many times on this board, I think viability should be the end point of legal abortion, and as technology makes that earlier and earlier, the law should reflect that. This essentially makes that time conception. As long as the bio parents are in no way responsible for the embryo, I see little reason for concern.

Then again, there’s lots of people who would never give up a child for adoption or donate an egg or sperm. Some people don’t like the idea of a person with their DNA wandering around out there, even if they’re not responsible for it. So that could be a sticky wicket for some people’s acceptance, even if they’re pro-choice. Termination gives one control of their genetic line - this doesn’t.

So it may not be only the anti-choice people who would object. You might have trouble with some pro-choice people as well.

It might be easiest to make this another option which doesn’t bear on abortion laws. That is, bio parents would have this option, but would still be allowed to terminate if they so chose. So, in that sense, it could have little to no effect legalistically. Practically, though, I suspect at least some would choose it, and it would redue abortion rates, if not eliminate them.

(And, uh…can I come over for dinner? Lately, all we talk about around here is Battlestar Galactica. Which, while exciting, is getting sort of tired for dinner table conversation.)

I’m totally pro-choice but if the right-to-life folks are willing to lay down the necessary portion of their tax dollars to keep aborted fetuses alive, and it’s that important to them, I’m willing to go along with taxpayer money going in that direction.

The goal as far as I’m concerned is not to ensure that fetuses and embryos can be killed at will but rather to ensure that anyone who is pregnant who wishes to cease to be pregnant can do so quickly safely legally and effectively.

Ohhhhhh. OK!

Well, I doubt you’ll really satisfy the Jeebus freaks. The cryopreserved fetuses will have a finite shelf life, unfortunately (which you mention), and if supply of fetuses exceeds demand, then some inevitably expire. So, unless you can ensure every fetus gets a womb, you’re still killing babies. Points for good intentions, but obviously some of the pro-lifers don’t give a shit about intentions, and think in absolutes. Such an elaborate and expensive protocol to placate a bunch of religious extremists who will hate you all the more for the fetuses you couldn’t save is, IMO, simply not worth the money or effort.

Um…when I choose to have an abortion, I *am * taking responsibility for the fetus. Many pro-lifers say I am not, but in reality, I am.

To put it in freeze? Why? I wouldn’t have any problem giving it up for research, honestly, I’ve already looked into ways of donating my eggs to science.

But for someone to have a baby with it? No, that is *not * taking responsibility, that is having a kid and not caring one whit or iota for it at all.

I would highly disagree with this. I am a pro-choice who would not give a kid up for adoption. I would either abort it, or (inconceivable!) raise it myself.


I guess I don’t understand the difference. If you’re willing to give up your eggs, to science, couldn’t they possibly be used for infertile couples? How is it necessarily any different if it’s a fertilized egg?

I’ve always thought it sort of noble that people would be willing to give their babies up for adoption. It’s my opinion that true love means being willing to sacrifice if need be, and nothing is a greater sacrifice than sending away someone you love because you know they’ll have a better life elsewhere. Many people give up their babies for adoption because they DO care what happens to the child, and they want to make sure it has an enriching environment.

I’ve known so many young girls who kept their babies for purely slefish reasons. They knew they couldn’t possibly support the baby or devote the time an infant needs to its care, but they couldn’t bear to give up their baby. Their children ended up suffering for it-- not starving or severely neglected, just not given the proper care and socialization a child needs to develop to its full potential. That, in my opinion, is not caring one iota about the baby-- it’s just caring about oneself.

I am not so proud of my DNA that I would refuse to part with a fetus because it shared my blood. If my fetus could bring joy to an infertile couple, hallelujah! If I stored the fetus, and decided to carry it in the future, more power to me.


I deliberately did not introduce the idea of using the stored fetuses for scientific research in my OP because many people are completely opposed to the idea on moral grounds, and would dismiss my whole concept based upon that.

You are determining a conclusion for the fetus. You are ensuring an outcome. That is not the same as taking responsibility. You can ensure that you need never feel guilty about a human being who happens to be wandering about the planet without your continued assistance. But that’s not the equivalent of taking responsibility for that person, as comforting as that thought might be.

I would have a hard time doing either of the above, but for a slightly different reason.

I wouldn’t have a problem with it if I could do an old-fashioned closed adoption, where I would never have any contact with the child and the child can’t ever come back into my life.

But I would not want the child trying to come back into my life, or getting in contact with my relatives.

I’m not sure why I feel this way. I’m not sure if it’s the prospect of explaining the whole thing to my friends and family, or to the child that bothers me more. Or maybe it’s that a situation where I was pregnant but didn’t want the child would be a traumatic chapter in my life that I would want to think about as little as possible after it was over. But the egg donor scenario troubles me too, so it can’t be just that.

I know I couldn’t donate an egg or give a child up for adoption without a whole lot more reassurance than anyone gets now that the child won’t be contacting me when it turns 18, or whatever. With abortion, of course, this scenario isn’t possible.