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Embryo PoliticsEthics and Policy in Atlantic Democracies$
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Thomas Banchoff

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449574

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449574.001.0001

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The Emergence of Ethical Controversy

The Emergence of Ethical Controversy

(p.21) Chapter 1 The Emergence of Ethical Controversy
Embryo Politics

Thomas Banchoff

Cornell University Press

This chapter traces the emergence of the human embryo as an object of ethical controversy from 1968 through the early 1990s. This trajectory can be divided into three phases. The first phase, roughly the decade following from the first fertilization of an egg outside the womb in Cambridge, England, in 1968, centered on concerns about eugenics, safety, and human sexuality. The focus was on the development of IVF as an infertility treatment and the race to produce the first “test-tube” baby. The moral status of the embryo was a subordinate issue. During a second phase, as IVF was gradually established as an infertility treatment, from 1978 to 1986, national ethics committees took up the problem of the respect due to the embryo, on the one hand, and the imperative of biomedical research, on the other. During a third phase, from 1987 to 1994, which coincided with the onset of political and policy struggles, the ethical debate became more polarized. The Catholic Church and its pro-life allies fused the embryo research and abortion issues, and scientists and their allies in the bioethics community increasingly emphasized the healing power of research for infertility and other conditions.

Keywords:   human embryo, embryo research, bioethics, biomedical research, ethical debate, Catholic Church, IVF, test-tube baby, infertility

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