Opinion

The other side of IVF

byDale O'Leary
9/6/2013

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, while 49 percent of U.S. adults believe that having an abortion is morally wrong only 12 percent believe that using in vitro fertilization is wrong, which means that 37 percent don't see the contradiction between these two positions. These 37 percent probably think that IVF is a simple procedure: a doctor fertilizes a wife's egg with a husband's sperm and puts it in her womb and 9 months later they have a happy, healthy baby -- an unnatural method, but the end justifies the means.

The problem with this simplistic view is that it doesn't work that way. The drugs designed to trigger ovulation don't produce just one egg, but multiples and the fertility specialists, in order to assure that they have at least one viable embryo, fertilize them all. What to do with the extras? How many should the doctors put into the mother-to-be's womb? How many should be frozen in case the first implantation fails? If two or more are implanted, and they all survive, then the woman faces a high risk pregnancy, both for herself and her babies, since multiples are more likely to be born prematurely and to suffer from numerous complications. However, the fertility doctors have a solution to the problems associated with carrying multiple babies to term: kill the extras -- a procedure euphemistically named "pregnancy reduction."

Of course, sometimes this intrusion into the womb can result in the loss of the entire pregnancy, but that is just another risk involved in IVF. Given all this it is not surprising that only 4.2 percent of the embryos created by this process ever result in a live birth. If the pregnancy succeeds, then there is the question of what should be done with the frozen babies, for while the professionals dehumanize the embryos, many of the mothers know that these are their babies and some are haunted by the thought of their babies waiting in the cold for a chance to be born.

Nadya Suleman, the so-called Octomom, is a media joke, but she is a victim of the reproductive technology industry. She had already conceived and borne 6 children using IVF, but there were leftover embryos in the freezer. Even though she was unmarried and on welfare and one of the six children she already had has a serious birth defect, she wanted the extras implanted. When 8 of the 12 embryos implanted survived, she refused pregnancy reduction. The result was the premature birth of 8 babies, some with serious health problems. The problem is that once she got on the IVF train there was no way to get off without killing or abandoning some of her babies. And so we have the tragedy of an overburdened single mother with 14 children, some with serious handicaps, struggling to survive.

The outcome was predictable. Babies born using IVF are more likely than naturally conceived children to have major and minor congenital malformations, cancer, cerebral paralysis, and genetic brain disorders.

Once conception was separated from the marital act, the next step was the use of donors and surrogates. Any number of combinations have been employed. Mothers have been surrogates for their daughters. Young women looking for a way to pay for the education are paid to donate eggs, and are not told that the drugs used to trigger egg production may have negative effect on their ability to have children themselves.

The donated eggs can be fertilized by sperm from the prospective father and implanted in surrogates -- women from poor countries, for whom the modest payment they receive for carrying the baby to term can assure family survival. And the reproductive technology business is not restricted to providing babies for husband and wife couples. Single men and women and same-sex couples are using various techniques, including IVF, surrogates, and artificial insemination donor to create permanently and purposefully fatherless or motherless children.

Babies conceived with donor sperm and eggs or gestated in rented wombs are cute and cuddly. The adults who arranged their births love them. But children grow up, and want to know the truth about themselves. Many donor conceived children are angry that no one will answer their question: "Who is my biological father?" You can hear their voices on the video "Anonymous Father's Day."

A child should be conceived in an act of love between a man and a woman committed to each other and the child for life. One woman who tried and failed to have a child through IVF said it felt like she was trying to have a baby with her doctor, not her husband.

Children are not commodities to be bought and sold, a product to be ordered. In opposing IVF, surrogate motherhood, and artificial insemination donation, the Church puts the right of the child before the desires of the adults. Unfortunately, it is a hard teaching to sell.

Dale O'Leary is a freelance writer and author of "The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality" and "One Man, One Woman."