IVF: American Consumerism or Gifts from God?

Amy Coney Barrett is a danger to families who desperately want children. So says Senator Tammy Duckworth, based on an advertisement which Judge Barrett signed back in 2006. This, Senator Duckworth suggests, disqualifies Judge Barrett from the US Supreme Court.

I don’t know Judge Barrett from Adam. But I do know something about infertility and the IVF industry. The IVF industry appeals to the worst instincts of American consumerism. The www.bioethics.net/2017/06/ivf-and-respect-for-the-dignity-of-human-life/ of artificial reproductive technologies is morally defensible.

Get what you want, the way you want it, when you want it. Sounds like a fine idea. Pick the one you want. Pay for it. Ignore all the others. Or just throw away anything you are tired of or don’t want, or that doesn’t satisfy you. Or you could turn it in for a refund. Or maybe you could buy a few extras to keep on hand just in case you want more. You can always throw them away later. Or maybe donate them to a charity.

“Have it your way,” is a fine advertising slogan for hamburgers. Take advantage of quantity discounts and stock up just in case, is a fine strategy for buying paper towels. But the “object” in question here is not an object at all, but a person. I buy the sperm or egg of a stranger. I pay someone to mix their gametes with mine. I look at the embryos. With the help of an expert with exquisite taste, I choose the ones I want. I throw away the rest. Or, maybe, I put them in cold storage, just in case I decide I want them later.

This is the “assisted reproductive technology” industry, including IVF, surrogacy and related technologies. Consumers of this product are sometimes called “commissioning parents.” The fact that people want the product is supposed to be a sufficient moral justification to allow them to have what they want.

Two points for the record: first, we must never regret the existence of a particular child, no matter how that child was conceived. Disapproval of the circumstances of a person’s conception does not translate into a belief that the person so conceived is unworthy or defective. Presumably, everyone opposes rape as an immoral act. But a child conceived in rape is still a full member of the human race, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection. Likewise, the child conceived through artificial means is fully human, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection.

Second, do not try to dismiss my arguments with the assertion that I don’t know the pain of infertility. As a matter of fact, I do. My husband and I dealt with infertility for four painful years. We can attest that it is a miserable experience. What we deny is that the depth of our misery or the intensity of our desire for a child is relevant to the question at hand.

Senator Duckworth herself raised one of the crucial questions. Without seeming to realise the significance of her statement, she told Fox News:

“In my case, with both of my girls, they looked at two or three fertilized eggs, not even embryos at this point, and said, you know, this one isn’t very viable,” Duckworth explained. “The third discarded could result in my doctor being criminalized.”

Duckworth added:

“If a fertilized egg in a person is a person, then that really has significant negative consequences for a family like mine that desperately wanted to have children.”

What exactly is the third “discarded” thing? Senator Duckworth says these zygotes are “not even embryos” at this point. Does Senator Duckworth deny that the zygote is alive? How can a non-living thing be “viable” or “not very viable?” The terms “zygote,” “embryo,” and “fetus” describe stages of biological human development, not the development into a human person.

This is the first of the contradictions of this position. If the zygote is chosen, it is Senator Duckworth’s precious child. If it is discarded, does that mean it never was anything or anyone of value?

Here is a related ethical dilemma. Suppose they don’t want to discard the embryo, but they don’t want to gestate her right away either. So they freeze her. Later, they unfreeze her, gestate her, and then she becomes their precious child. What was this person during the time that she was frozen? An object? A non-person?

Now you may think that I am causing problems here, because I referred to the frozen embryo as a person.

“You blurred the distinction between the zygote and the embryo and the ultimate person. If we would just all get on board with the proper terminology and proper thought process, that all these problems would go away.”

But honestly, it doesn’t have to be me who raises this question. What if one of the living children herself brings up these topics? “Hey Mom and Dad, what about all my frozen siblings? Did you guys really kill a couple of my siblings on the very day that you ‘chose’ me to live? I could have been the one that got frozen or killed.” And so on.

Will you have answers for these questions? Will your answers be good enough for her? For that matter, will your answers be good enough for you and for your child’s other parent as the years go by?

I have known people who have been in agony for years over their frozen children. I know an adult man whose mother revealed that she had an abortion when he was a teenager. The “survivor’s guilt” and disorientation he experienced were surreal. These questions will not all go away, just because no one is asking them right now.

Questions of this kind flow directly from the initial proposition that children are best viewed as the objects of their parents’ will. If the parents want the child, the child has legally recognised rights. If the parents do not want the child, they can do anything they want, at least before birth, and possibly beyond.

The most coherent alternative moral position is each child is an unrepeatable gift from a loving God. God created this particular child to image His goodness in some unique way. Our participation in the procreative process is to love our child’s other parent and allow God to bless that love as He deems best for all of us. As parents, we accept the children God gives us and care for each of them to the best of our ability. If God does not give us children, we accept this fact with grace and move on with our lives.

As I say, I do not know Judge Amy Coney Barrett or what she believes. But I do know this: the IVF industry is indefensible. The Catholic alternative is both intellectually coherent and morally defensible. And I am not ashamed to say so.

[Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash]

By |2020-10-15T13:14:54+11:00October 15th, 2020|Children, Family, World|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D is the founder of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization that defends the family at home and in the public square and equips others to do the same. She is passionate about equipping family advocates with the knowledge and confidence to defend the family at home and in the public square.

Dr. Morse was a campaign spokeswoman for California’s winning Proposition 8 campaign, defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. She has authored or co-authored five books and spoken around the globe on marriage, family and human sexuality. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Chuukese, the native language of the Micronesian Islands. Her newest books are The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims and 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person, coauthored with Betsy Kerekes.

She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and taught economics at Yale and George Mason Universities.

Dr. Morse was named one of the “Catholic Stars of 2013” on a list that included Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr. Morse and her husband are parents of an adopted child, a birth child, a goddaughter and were foster parents for San Diego County to eight foster children. In 2015, Dr. Morse and her husband relocated to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the work of the Ruth Institute continues.

For a listing of Dr. Morse's current presentations, please click here. For more information, contact info@ruthinstitute.org. You can listen to many of Dr. Morse’s recent talks on the Ruth Institute podcast page.

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