Strong: Rock-a-bye, embryo

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“All individuals shall have a fundamental right to abortion performed or administered by a qualified health care practitioner until fetal viability, or when needed to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient, without interference from the state or its political subdivisions,”

— Proposed Nevada Reproductive Rights Amendment, 2024.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Roe v. Wade, passed in 1973, established a Constitutional right to abortion. The Dobbs decision turned abortion legislation over to the states.

Since then, there’s been much faulty legislation and misunderstanding about reproductive rights. States such as Texas and Florida have passed especially restrictive and confusing laws. Women needing medical care have been told to go wait in the parking lot and bleed until they are so close to death, doctors feel justified in treating them.

Doctors have had to consult hospital lawyers before treating problem pregnancies, even ectopic pregnancies, for fear they’ll be fined or arrested for doing their jobs. Women have had to leave their home state to get proper health care. Even normal pregnancy care has been compromised.

In Arizona, Republicans are trying to make the abortion laws even more restrictive. On March 18, Arizona State Senator Eva Burch told her story to the Arizona state senate. She has two children. She became pregnant after suffering a nonviable pregnancy in 2022; she and her husband were excited about having another child. She then found that this pregnancy was also nonviable.

Her health care provider recommended an abortion. Before that could happen, Burch had to sit through a lecture, required by Arizona law, about alternatives to abortion such as adoption or parenting classes. To consider the choice of adoption for a baby who would be born dead was “cruel,” in her words. This shows how far from reality so many anti-abortion laws have become.

Even farther from reality is the ruling in February by the Alabama Supreme Court that frozen embryos are legal children. These embryos are about 0.0056 inches big, the size of an extremely small seed. They are potential humans, just as an acorn is a potential oak tree.

By definition, a living organism has to have an organized structure and be able to grow, react to stimuli, adapt, and maintain a stable internal environment. These frozen embryos can do none of this. Eventually, when planted into a woman’s uterus, they will be able to grow and eventually react to stimuli, but frozen, they can’t even do that.

At six weeks of pregnancy, when most women realize they are pregnant, the embryo is the size and shape of a pea. That doesn’t mean that embryo can’t be loved. I loved my son the moment I knew I was pregnant, even if he was the size of a pea!

What it does mean is that the embryo isn't developed enough to react to stimuli or maintain its own internal environment. It has no consciousness, which is one characteristic of a sentient being.

By calling frozen embryos legal children, a number of questions arise. Here are just a few, taken from comments on a March 6 Washington Post story.

“If a frozen embryo is considered a legal child, can it be claimed as a dependent on a tax return?”

“Can an embryo be assigned a Social Security number?”

“Can an embryo go on vacation with the rest of the family?”

If these questions sound ridiculous, it’s because they are. An embryo is not equal to a born child. To give embryos equal rights to living, breathing humans does not demonstrate how precious life is. It just results in a lot of heartache and tragedy.

Nearly 80 percent of abortions happen before nine weeks, before the embryo becomes a fetus; 93 percent happen before 13 weeks. After that, almost all abortions are because of fetal abnormalities or to save the health or life of the mother.

Most anti-abortion laws are more about control over women than they are about preserving life. If they were about preserving life, the woman’s life would take precedence over that of an unborn baby. That’s the Biblical standard.

When anti-abortionists are willing to let women die or become infertile to theoretically save an unborn child, they show their true motivations. They make a mockery of the sanctity of life.

In Nevada, we will have a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment safeguarding the reproductive rights of women. The choice should be simple.

Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Foundation award-winning columnist. She may be reached at


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