Cheaper by the Million

The burden of human reproduction is asymmetrically applied: it is virtually costless to the male and extremely costly to the female. But what is true biologically is often not true in a larger sense because it is usually in the interest of the female of this species to make the male pay for the service she renders by developing his genes.

Often, however, males attempt to rid themselves of any costs of reproduction, even the costs of courtship, through rape. Rape, in biological terms, is an attempt to reduce the male costs of reproduction to near-zero, to force the female to take on all the costs herself, including those costs that are nonbiological—i.e., courtship and childrearing costs.

How does this relate to the idea that human rights begin at conception? If indeed the zygote is a human being, a “soul,” an individual with rights, then the power of a male to impose obligations (and hence costs) on a female, and eliminate his own, in other words the power to rape (egg-steal), is increased exponentially by science. In the near future it will be possible, if it isn’t already, for a male scientist to steal the eggs of a woman by removing them from her body, fertilize them with his own sperm, divide them up many times over, and perhaps create hundreds, maybe even thousands of “souls” in the course of a single day—an “achievement” not even an enterprising rapist, wealthy whoremonger, or greedy polygamist could accomplish in a year’s time. Now imagine being able to take that work of a single day and obligate hundreds of women to spend their entire lives growing and developing your progeny by claiming that such zygotes have a moral right to live, that is to be forcibly implanted in the bodies of their “mothers.”

Now that’s power!

Contemplation of that tyranny is such a horror that any reasonable person is forced to acknowledge the simple truth: fertilized eggs are not human beings and that men produce genes, women produce people. What happens between conception and birth is an investment of female resources. And this investment is what produces the fundamental value of a human being.

Since only women create people, a man who creates 10,000 embryos in the lab has created entities of almost no value, if not literally of no value. Such “creation” does not mandate the use of force against a single woman, even the woman who is the “mother” of those embryos. To tell a woman she is the “mother” of 10,000 “children” that a male has produced nearly costlessly in a lab is an outrage. Such “children” do not induce obligations at all. Like sperm, embryos are dirt cheap, but unlike sperm, unwanted embryos are worse than useless, they are an enormous burden to anyone “obligated” to develop them.

Actually, given recent scientific developments, it has occurred to me that scientists may be able to create germ cells, both eggs and sperm, from somatic cells. If and when this process is perfected, it may someday be possible for an enterprising youngster to create embryos at home. Instead of riding one’s bike down the street saying, “Look, Mom, no hands,” we’ll get the below scenario:

Sixteen-year-old science whiz Jack wakes up before dawn one Sunday morning and spends several hours working with the biotech repro kit he bought at Scientific Toys ’R’ Us. After an hour he has managed to successfully remove the nucleus of a somatic cell. He then merges the nucleus with a “starter” artificial egg that came with the kit. Pretty soon he has a bunch of cloned cells that he divides up, over and over again.

By 9 am, enterprising Jack has several hundred little “people” in lab dishes all over his bedroom. While admiring his handiwork, his fourteen-year-old sister Jill knocks on his bedroom door to tell him he’s wanted downstairs for breakfast. When he doesn’t immediately answer, Jill opens the door.

“What are you doing in there?”

“Creating people,” Jack answers matter-of-factly.

Jill snorts. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Jack smiles. “I just created a couple of hundred ‘souls,’ precious, rights-bearing individuals, and if you don't leave me alone, I might learn how to implant your babies in your belly.” Jack pantomimes a pregnant woman waddling around. “You’ll be so big with three or four of ’em, you'll barely be able to move. No more swim meets for you this summer.”

“What are you talking about?” Jill asks nervously, noticing for the first time the lab dishes sitting on every empty surface of the bedroom. And what to you mean by saying ‘your little babies’”?

“Well, I noticed yesterday you had a scab on your leg you were picking at. Well, I fished out some skin tissue and a band-aid from your wastepaper basket, and sure enough, I got some fresh skin, some live cells. From there, I—”

“Mom, Jack is making embryos with that stupid biotech kit he bought with his Christmas money. Mom...Mom!”

“I’m coming, I'm coming.” Jack and Jill’s mom comes running up the stairs to see what the commotion is all about.

“What’s going on?” Mom asks Jack and Jill.

“Jack created a bunch of embryos from a piece of my skin. Now he’s talking about implanting them in my body.”

“Jack, is that true?”

Jack smirks. “Yeah, it is. I’ve been reading that people in the old days used to think that embryos were people with rights and that their mothers were obligated to take care of them, bring the little stowaways to safety. I just thought that maybe there was something to that. Maybe Jill should be forced to have these babies.”

“In the old days women had no rights and were nothing but brood mares. We have rights now, so nothing doing. You take all your embryos and flush them down the toilet. And don’t you dare threaten your sister again.”

Mom storms down the stairs while Jack begins to gather his embryos for disposal. Leering at his sister’s abdomen, he mutters under his breath: “Pity.”

Back to top

Rift Rants

Comments? Contact me.

© 2005 Laura J. Rift. All rights reserved.