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The Family Jewels

Would look fabulous in a Tiffany setting (crystal light/Shutterstock)

This is what we have become:

After a six-year IVF journey to receive miracles Lachlan, 4, and 21-month-old twins Charlotte and William, Belinda and Shaun Stafford didn’t know what to do with their remaining embryos. Their babies.

Donation wasn’t an option, the annual storage fee was an added financial strain, and disposing of them unimaginable.

So when the NSW couple heard about Baby Bee Hummingbirds, an Australian company turning embryos into keepsake jewellery, they jumped at the chance.

Now Ms Stafford has all of her babies with her every day – including seven embryos in her heart-shaped pendant worn close to her heart, always.

Awwww. More:

Ms Stafford chose a heart pendant through Baby Bee Hummingbirds, so she could carry her babies close to her heart, where they should be.

“We had been on a six-year journey of IVF,” she said.

“It was painful, tormenting, a strain on our marriage and just plain hard.

“Finding this has brought me so much comfort and joy.

“I finally at peace and my journey complete.

“My embryos were my babies – frozen in time.

“When we completed our family, it wasn’t in my heart to destroy them.

“Now they are forever with me in a beautiful keepsake.”

Says the maker of this macabre artifact:

“The families we craft for are very educated, loving people who are aware of the options. We are giving them another option.”

Read the whole thing.

On her company’s Facebook page, the jeweler writes:

Boy, are they ever trying hard to counter any potential criticism. You can hear the nanny-goat sternness in the voice: “They are informed, educated & loving people who have made an educated decision.” Well, education doesn’t prevent you from being a barbarian. And this is damn sure barbaric, turning the mausoleum of your unborn children into stylish jewelry.

If you believe that life begins at conception, then you must concede that this is monstrous. It is one thing for a grieving widow (say) to wear a portion of her husband’s ashes in a pendant around her neck. It is quite another to have consented to the deliberate creation of unborn children — because if you are a life-begins-at-conception person, that’s what embryos are — then exterminated them by fire, then had they made into a modish accoutrement. Had you miscarried at eight weeks, would you have had the baby dipped in acrylic and turned into a clunky pendant?

Then again, people who believe that life begins at conception and who consent to the deliberate creation of “surplus” embryos via IVF are engaging in massive cognitive dissonance, to put it charitably.

But even if you do not believe that an embryo has the moral status of a human person, it is still an appalling and grotesque defilement of human life to make jewelry — jewelry! — out of what was once a living thing.

On the other hand, perhaps it is simply honest. Notice that Belinda Stafford does not hesitate to call the embryos she had incinerated and pressed into a pendant her “babies.” And she adds:

“When we completed our family, it wasn’t in my heart to destroy them. Now they are forever with me in a beautiful keepsake.”

The language here is astonishing. She and her husband deliberately created embryos — she calls them babies — for the sake of designing their own family. Human lives as commodities for their own personal fulfillment. Yet she considers herself compassionate for not destroying them. What in God’s name does she think reducing them to ashes and enclosing them in jewelry did?! It seems clear to me that Belinda Stafford knows in her conscience that she has done something terribly wrong, and is engaging in veiling language and a strange ritual to conceal from herself the moral gravity of her and her husband’s deeds.

The Catholic novelist Walker Percy wrote, in his essay, “Why Are You A Catholic?”:

Americans are the nicest, most generous, and sentimental people on earth. Yet Americans have killed more unborn children than any nation in history.

Now euthanasia is beginning.

Don’t forget that the Germans used to be the friendliest, most sentimental people on earth. But euthanasia was instituted, not by the Nazis, but by the friendly democratic Germans of the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic was followed by the Nazis.

It is not “horrible” that over a million unborn children were killed in America last year. For one thing, one does not see many people horrified. It is not horrible, because in an age of theory and consumption it is appropriate that actions be carried out as the applications of theory and the needs of consumption require. . . .

Accordingly, it should not be surprising that present-day liberals favor abortion, just as the Nazis did years ago. The only difference is that the Nazis favored it for theoretical reasons (eugenics, racial purity), while present-day liberals favor it for consumer needs (unwanted, inconvenient). … A liberal may act from his own consumer needs (guilt, sentimentality) and the Nazis may act from theory (eugenics, racial purity), but both are consistent in an age of purity and consumption.

The Nazis did not come out of nowhere.

Percy’s point, I think, is that there is no logical inconsistency between the deeds the Nazis justified to themselves and the deeds that liberal abortion-backers justify to themselves. In our case, if we want something, then we will  come up with the theory to justify it. Mrs. Stafford and her husband wanted to curate their family. This involved participating in the conception of ten embryos — “babies,” in her terminology. But the Staffords did not want more, and did not want anyone else to have the remaining seven babies. So they justified incinerating them and turning them into jewelry for Mrs. Stafford to wear by first reassuring themselves that they are loving, compassionate parents (who by definition would never do anything horrible), and that as an expression of that love, Mrs. Stafford wants to keep the bodies of those babies — for whose existence she and Mr. Stafford are responsible — close to her heart, physically.

This is how putting the babies in an oven and turning their roasted corpses into ornamentation gets justified as a compassionate act.

Nominalism — which entails the idea that there is no such thing as intrinsic value to human life — can take you a long way. The only difference between an “embryo” and a “baby” is terminological; it describes an emotional attitude towards the human entity. Mrs. Stafford’s unconscious blurring of these lines is very human, but it is a horrifying sign of the times.

The Nazis made lovely lampshades for the home out of the skin of their fellow human beings. But I bet even they didn’t stoop to the kind of shmaltzy, sentimental language that the Aussie jeweler and her customers engage in. And I bet they would not have done like the jeweler has done, which is to respond to critics on Facebook by posting the below Scripture meme swathed in sappy Christian bookstore colors. As Flannery O’Connor put it,

“If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.”

Or a jeweler’s shop where they turn dead babies into bangles.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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