The recent destruction of more than 3,300 embryos by British fertility clinic technicians was a chilling reminder of the vulnerability of human life in its earliest stages of development. The incident also underscores how breakthroughs in the field of human reproductive technology are still running well ahead of legal and ethical constraints.

It’s not surprising that Britain should be the first nation to deal with the large-scale destruction of human embryos. As a pioneering nation in the science of in-vitro fertilization, British medical professionals gave new hope to childless couples the world over have looking to in-vitro fertilization as an answer to infertility.

The in-vitro fertilization researchers were no doubt motivated by a sincere desire to help infertile couples have children and enjoy the challenges and rewards of parenthood. But the aim of science to control nature – even for purposes of allowing infertile couples to have children – is not without some moral limitations. Often the rush to embrace innovation and discovery blinds us to ethical and moral considerations. The destruction of the 3,300-plus human embryos is just the latest example.

While the full implications of in-vitro fertilization were still being worked out by ethicists and theologians, Britain and other countries began building up stores of frozen embryos. In most instances, the embryo build-up occurred in the absence of any legislative guidelines. By 1990, the British Parliament passed a law requiring donor consent for the preservation of a frozen embryo longer than five years. The inability to contact may of these original donors led to the massive human embryo destruction of last August.

Now other countries, including Canada, are scrambling to draft legislation dealing with human embryos. As reported in this month’s Interim, Health Canada has invited input from Canadians in drafting laws regulating fertility clinics. It’s a good opportunity for pro-life Canadians to voice their concerns on this crucial life issue.

Let’s hope that any resulting legislation in this country recognizes the position of pro-life supporters that embryos are worthy of full legal protection. Indeed, once we accept the notion that human life begins at the moment of conception, then the entire concept of embryo manipulation and experimentation takes on new significance.

If there is anything to be gained from the large-scale embryo destruction we have just witnessed in Britain, it is that we at least recognize the need to pick up the pace of regulating new reproductive technologies. In that way our laws can be brought into better accord with our consciences.