X-Message-Number: 13228
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 02:34:30 -0500
Subject:  Belated Remarks on Cryonics and  Abortion
From: David Pascal <>

Mr Paul Wakfer wrote:

<<I have been working   on and off for over 4 years (mostly off for the
last 2
years) CryoSpan, Inc even entered into a contract with Cryogenic
Solutions of Texas to be
the repository of such aborted fetuses (they were going to be the public
for promotion and marketing) but it all fell through >>

Not every Cryonet readers may be aware of this, but there are already
thousands of fetuses being held essentially in cryostasis in IVF (in
vitro fertilization) clinics throughout the Unites States and elsewhere. 
The reason is fertility drugs.  Such drugs, when successful, tend to
produce several embryos, not just one.  Of course, for a woman to bring
eight or nine embryos to term is near to impossible.  Fatality lurks for
both mother and embryos in the attempt, and so doctors select only one or
two of the embryos to implant, freezing the rest.  They don t destroy the
embryos because if the ones implanted fail to take, the remaining ones
can be thawed and implanted without having to put the mother through the
whole process of fertilization all over again.  (Having extra embryos on
hand also allows doctors to implant the embryos in sterile couples,
surrogate mothers, and so on, not to mention giving researchers extra
fodder for medical experimentation.)

The thing to remember, though, is that such embryos are put into
cryostasis rapidly   the optimal period being within 18.0 hours after
conception, or so I ve read.    The egg is fertilized, removed, and
cooled down as soon as possible -- and that is a very different situation
from what we usually think of as  getting an abortion .  Immediate embryo
removal is not the first thing on most people s post-coital To Do list. 
A month or more can pass before a woman learns, or even suspects, that
she s become pregnant, and by that time her fetus is a complex entity. 
Frozen embryos taken immediately upon fertilization have been
successfully brought to term, but I m not aware of that being the case
with any fetus already one, two, three, or more months into development. 
I d venture to say that it hasn t been done because it can t be.  No
large mammal has ever successfully come out of cryopreservation, and the
one-to-two pound infant killed in a late-term abortion is a large mammal.

(Incidentally.  An interesting question addressed by James Swayze:  need
the entire fetus be preserved at all?  One of the recurring arguments in
cryonics is about the preservation of memory, but what meaning does
memory have for a fetus?  In theory one could take a minimal tissue
sample from a six-month old aborted fetus, cryopreserve that, scrap the
rest, and still clone a genetically exact child from it at some future
point.  What memories would be there to lose?  On the other hand, one
would face the strange situation of  saving a child  by preserving bare
handful of cells, while perhaps destroying the same(?) child s  living
infant body, complete with brain, heart, lungs, fingers, toes, organs,
fingerprints, nervous system, and possibly capable of surviving in an
incubator.  The argument could even be extended:  if coherent, accessible
memory defines personhood, how much of a  person  is six-month-old child?
 Or a one-year old child?  Is killing a two-year-old OK if we save a
strand of its hair first?  Most everyone would of course say no, but it
does put cryopreserving infants into rather a interesting and puzzling
category.  Admittedly, I can t really see anyone objecting to removing
and cryopreserving a few cells from a fetus, particularly if that removal
doesn t injure its subsequent possible development.  On the other hand, I
don t see a great rush to such a service on the part of the public

But I don t want to get away from my point.  In proposing a business
venture, you have to understand what precisely you are offering and what
you aren t.  If a woman who is a few months pregnant comes to a cryonics
organization (or even to her doctor) and says she wants to have the child
removed for re-implantation after her financial situation improves, it
won t happen.  The child is already so complex a structure that taking it
to minus 196 C will disarrange and damage it sufficiently to render
viability impossible.  That s not to say such a cryopreserved fetus can t
be saved someday.  But to do it one must invoke the  n  word, invariably
bashed here on Cryonet.  Damage on a cellular, nay, molecular level takes
place with all current forms of freezing large mammalian organisms, 21CM
ice blockers or not.  Nothing so subjected is going to come out OK unless
cellular or molecular repair -- nanotech or something like it -- is

Now by a happy circumstance, eighty billion dollars worth of research
money is being poured into nanotech research by everyone from Princeton,
MIT, Xerox, Germany, Japan, the Army, Navy, etc. etc.  But until that
research bears fruit, no one going into cryostasis these days is going to
come out, virtually all non-IVF aborted fetuses included.  Preserving
mid-term aborted fetuses would not be radically different from something
like neurosuspension   perfusion would probably be required, plus people
to do it, plus funding to pay for all that.  Revival will take decades,
and preservation for decades will take money.  We have to assume that the
woman going for such an abortion alternative already believes that
cryonic suspension will prove to be viable.  Right she is.  I think so
too.  Nonetheless, Mr Wakfer s proposed group would be preaching to the
converted, and at the moment there are not enough converts to meet such
his proposed group s overhead.  And even if there were, there d be
problems.  Most women having abortions have them (I assume) because
having a child is not terribly convenient.  Paying a neuro-like $50,000
lump sum, or even half that, for a  cryo-abortion  isn t terribly
convenient either.  Hence I don t see a lot of people queuing up to get
one.  Add that to the fact that (to date) no one to my knowledge has ever
so much as even asked a cryonics organization to cool a fetus, and one
has to pause.  Business operates on supply and demand, and where demand
is zero, proposed businesses need to step back and take stock.

I don t want to be misunderstood:  I think that Mr. Wakfer s idea is
generally right, and worth pursuing, and also that there is a logical
affinity between pro-life supporters and cryonicists.  A fetus in
cryostasis is alive, and a fetus washed down a hospital sink is dead, and
we ought to save lives if we can; it s our job.  If an organization
offered to preserve fetuses with that end in mind, I would support it,
and I believe no small number of pro-lifers would too.  It s essentially
a good idea.  But a good idea and a successful business venture based on
a good idea are two different things.

A related venture has a good chance of making it (which I ll get to in a
second, but not an abortion-alternative approach.  I think that has the
potential of being a disaster.  Case in point:  Mr Wakfer says:

<<Wrt funding, I believe there might even be a possibility of getting the
Church to fund such an endeavor.>>

I would say the chances of getting the Catholic Church to fund Mr.
Wakfer s project is zero.  Papal encyclicals tend not to get in-depth
reviews on Cryonet, so the Catholic position on reproduction here is an
example of religious mystery par excellence.  But it s worth reviewing
nonetheless, because I consider that particular Church to be one of
cryonics  best potential allies   perhaps the only one with the sort of
general popular appeal that cryonics clearly lacks.

The Church s position on reproduction is what it is because it focuses
not purely on the result (a new human life), but on that life and the
people involved in bringing that life into existence.  The Church, for
example, has always condemned masturbation, not because it considers
sperm to be people, but because it considers that the person indulging in
that particular vice is making a choice that inclines the practitioner to
isolation and solipsism.  If you have sexual feelings and you try to
satisfy them by finding a partner, you have to enter human society and
look for one; you have to be at least mildly sociable, decent, and
pleasant; should you find a partner, you may end up producing an entirely
new human being, perhaps several; you then face the responsibility of
raising them, caring for them, teaching them, setting an example for
them.  In short, you join the human community; you grow.  If you stay
home and masturbate, by contrast, you sink into subjective fantasies and
illusions, and live a life of relative isolation, sterility, and
unreality.   This is also the root of the Church s objection to things
like birth control: it tends to put short-term self-absorbed personal
pleasure ahead of long-term personal and social growth.  Kierkegaard
said,  the door to happiness opens outwards.   Maybe yes, maybe no; but
the Church feels that the door to reality certainly does open outwards,
and whatever turns an individual out of himself, away from
self-absorption, and towards other human beings, it regards as
essentially good, and indeed something that eventually leads to the
backdrop of all created beings, namely God.

One can agree or disagree, of course.  The point is, given those views, I
find it hard to believe that the Church would ever OK a woman putting a
viable fetus into cryostasis.  If a woman going to college were to say,
 Well, I ll put this kid s life on hold for six years till I get my
Ph.D.,  it might seem like a reasonable decision to her, but I expect the
Church s response would be that no person has the right to put any
child s life on hold for six years, for any reason whatsoever.  There are
exceptions: if woman taking fertility drugs were to produce ten embryos,
she couldn t possibly survive or bring the embryos to term, and in such
cases the Church might well relent.  But cryostasis as a Church-approved
casual alternative to birth?  Never.

Having said that, we should very quickly remember that the Church is the
only major organization that has ever gone to bat publicly for
individuals in cryostasis.  For the Roman Catholic Church, cryonics is
not a possibility: it is a reality.  Catholicism holds that a person is a
person from the point of conception, period, and faced with the fact that
such persons, in the form of embryos, have already been taken down to
 196 C for years, kept there for years with zero life signs, and been
brought back, the Church has acknowledged it, and indeed fought for the
rights of such people with a rigor that puts cryonicists to shame.  I'm
thinking particularly of the incident in 1995 in Britain, where
Parliament ordered several thousand fetus embryos held in cryostasis over
five years to be removed and destroyed.  Howls of outrage did not issue
from BioPreservation, the Extropian List, or Xerox PARC but it did from
the Vatican, which denounced the move officially and loudly, going so far
as to inspire over one hundred Italian women (including two nuns) to
offer to serve as surrogate parents.  The embryos were destroyed,
needless to say.  But a hard position binding on a vast group of
individuals was carved out, and publicly stated.

That is no small thing.  The largest religious organization in the world,
the oldest surviving institution in human history, has publicly committed
itself to the position that a human being placed in cryostasis retains
the elementary human right not to be destroyed by anyone, the government
included, and should be protected and revived if and when possible.  Why
does that matter?  Because there are one thousand cryonics members in the
world, and one billion Catholics.  We could use a billion friends.  We
don t need a billion enemies.  If some cryonics or
cryonics-relatedorganization came up with a way to save abandoned
fetuses, that tiny organization would be getting the blessing of a
massive organization, in more ways than one.

However, if that cryonics organization went around encouraging abortion,
saying,  abortions are OK now , or ended up destroying so much as one
fetus out of financial reasons or handed it over to medical research,
potentially vast support would vanish and potentially vast opposition
surface.  This we don t need.  Mr Wakfer, breaking with a long cryonics
tradition of dumping on the general public s Judeo-Christian assumptions
at every turn, seems to be putting out feelers artfully and
diplomatically, and the approach alone justifies the effort.  But any
support he gets will (in my opinion) be hedged with qualifications, and
could easily sour.

All in all, then, I don t think an organization specializing solely in
freezing aborted fetuses would work.  (Not, at least, without a marketing
effort approaching genius and with funding to spare, advantages not in
great supply in the world of cryonics.)  Current demand is zero, the
possibility of antagonizing a large segment of the public is huge, media
caricature is inevitable, and technology seems to be on the point of
rendering the attempt superfluous:  Japanese researchers working on the
problem of creating an artificial womb (for cows) claim to be a few years
away at most from success, and once that happens, aborted fetuses won t
have to be frozen at all:  they can be brought to term artificially.

More promising (from Mr Wakfer s perspective) is the fact that IVF
clinics put numerous embryos on ice right now, will continue to for the
foreseeable future, and destroy them regularly   and nervously.  I expect
they d be greatly prefer to have some other organization take the fetuses
off their hands.  One of the great problems in the British case was that
a solid of ten percent of the parents of the fetuses slated for
destruction could not even be contacted   divorce, relocation, paperwork
bungles, etc., resulted in fetuses being destroyed only to have their
parents call up afterwards and getting an unpleasant surprise. 
Destroying fetuses has the potential of putting an IVF clinic in way of
potential legal suits, religious protests, targets of violent
right-to-lifers, etc.  Passing the buck, and the fetus, to a secondary
organization committed to their preservation would be a reasonable and
tempting move. 

I should point out that there are already organizations that hold fetuses
indefinitely: California Cryobank, for instance site Currently it charges
about $200 to open up an account and $250 per year to maintain the fetus.
 It also approaches the market intelligently, by offering embryo
cryopreservation as one among a host of services to medical researchers,
patients and doctors.  (Sperm bank services, etc.)  Seeing how they do it
might give a Mr Wakfer s proposed business a viable model to imitate.

Another thing a prospective embryo storage organization might want to
consider is storing frozen tissue as well, for cloning.  I ve come across
two such organizations on the net.  They seem to be making a profit. 
(Indeed one organization called Clonaid is charging $200,000 to take
tissue and clone an entire person once it becomes possible.  They also
have a program to take tissues from children (Insuraclone) and pets
(Clonapet).  They do have a slight drawback in that the organization s
founder claims to have been talked into the venture by four-foot space
aliens called the Elohim.  Nonetheless, they ve apparently made $20
million plus at this point.  I expect sane people could probably do as

I also think each cryonics organization should think about dealing with
this situation, and have a response.  What if a woman approached CI or
Alcor, say, and asked to have the organization cryopreserve a fetus it
she had every intention of aborting, or even wanted merely to have the
organization store a cell sample from the fetus for future cloning?  Does
each organization have a policy thought out, paperwork, cost charts, an
alternative provider to direct the woman to?  Or do we follow Nancy
Reagan, and just say no?  We freeze dogs and turn humans down regularly
already, of course, but it s not a trend that necessarily has to

Summing it up:  anyone thinking about starting any such service should:

1.  See if any other sort of business is doing it, and how, and how well.
 Copying doesn t just work for Xerox.  Some good models are:  California
Cryobank, tissue-for-cloning groups, etc. Also, related organizations
could help.  Embryo adoption, for instance, is being pioneered by
organizations like Creating Families, Inc., the Snowflakes Embryo
Adoption Program, and the University of Iowa Health Center.  An embryo
storage group could work with such to profitably place embryos with
prospective parents, not just store them definitely.

2.  Get harder data.  If you want to know how the public in general (and
right-to-lifers in particular) would react to your proposal, don t ask
Cryonet.  Ask them.  Do a survey.  Running one on the Internet costs next
to nothing.  Get on a newsgroup or hit a chat room or forum.  Get some
stamps and envelopes and a good mailing list from Hugo Dunhill Inc.  
they re on the net, just like everybody else.

3.  Prepare better.  I found nearly all of Mr. Wakfer s remarks
thoughtful, compassionate, and to the point, but the worst was saved for
last, when he wrote:  but I would rather do this [with] a select group of
people who are pro-actively interested in effecting this rather than to a
bunch on potentially nit- picking dilettantes.   This is an error. 
Criticism is priceless.  It is infinitely better to find out the flaws in
your product and approach now, rather than in the marketplace, where such
feedback is accompanied by bankruptcy.  The morelife.org web page, I m
sorry to say, is a good case in point.  I logged on and clicked onto a
page said to list all its supporters (none    page under construction ),
another on what people say about them (nothing    page under
construction ), and lastly one on what you can do (send us money).

Now Paul Wakfer is a very distinguished individual, as are his
associates, and I have no doubt that there are upright, scholarly,
well-respected men and women already helping and supporting him at
morelife.org on this issue.  But why go public and not mention a single
one?  Fine goals are not achieved by sloppy means.  People log on, think
 scam , and never return.  The page gave me the impression that someone
had what they thought was a good idea, and leapt to make it public at
once, leaving the tedious work of handling the little details for later. 
Quite understandable.  Noble sentiments have a way of doing that.  Which
is why they produce disaster.  In business, thought has to precede
action.   J. Edgar Hoover said it all:   A careful scenario gets

David Pascal

(PS.  A bit off-topic, but in surfing the web in search of morelife.org,
I came across an article on cryopreserving pig embryos.  Apparently pig
embryos are notoriously resistant to successful cryopreservation, but a
group of researchers seem to have come up with some sort of
 microfilament inhibitor  that s more than doubled the rate of survival,
a result which has made the swine industry go (dare I say) hog-wild. 
High culture the swine industry is not; still, I get the impression that
this might be a good market for 21CM to offer its ice blockers to, just
as those  microfilament inhibitors  might be of some interest to Brian
Wowk & company, assuming they haven t checked it out already.  The
article is available at
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar98/pigs0398.htm, its author is
Tara Weaver, at the Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff,
6303 Ivy Lane, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770 (phone (301) 344-2824), and the
researcher in charge is John R. Dobrinsky at the USDA-ARS Germplasm and
Gamete Physiology Laboratory, Bldg. 200, 10300 Baltimore Ave.,
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301) 504-8134, fax (301) 504-5123. )

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