Recently, a Virginia judge ruled that human embryos should legally be considered “chattel,” or property. Liberal scholars, in an Associated Press article, denounced the ruling.
For example, Susan Crockin, a lawyer and scholar at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics and an expert in reproductive technology law, rightfully called the judge’s decision, “repulsive” and “morally repugnant.” But her moral shock was not that a human being could be considered chattel. As she has expressed elsewhere, she is against the legal protection of human embryos as persons. Rather, she was repulsed that a judge would rely on pre-Civil War Virginia law concerning chattel slaves.
In other words, folks like Crockin miss the forest for the trees. After all, the very same desecration of human dignity that made slavery so morally repulsive then undergirds this new trade in human chattel today. People are never property, no matter how small.
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