Embryonic Discourse: Abortion, Stem Cells, and Cloning

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Florida State University Law Review

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Embryonic Discourse describes and analyzes the ideological roots of the debate about abortion in American society and compares that debate to the more recent debate about embryonic stem-cell research and non-reproductive cloning. The two debates have been conflated in American society, largely because of the centrality of questions about embryonic status to each. However, these debates are fundamentally distinct. In the U.S., the debate about abortion was framed in response to the demands of the Industrial Revolution, and for over a century and a half, has served as a symbol of and context for deliberations concerning the scope of the American family and related questions about community, personhood, and gender. In contrast, the debate about embryonic stem-cell research and non-reproductive cloning has developed from within a social universe that assumes autonomous individuality and that struggles to discern the "nature" and limits of the autonomous individual.

The article summarizes political and legal responses to each debate and suggests that, read together and compared, these debates reflect the parameters of a society making sense of its past and designing its future.