Thursday, March 12, 2009

Leftover People

A subject has been raised recently in regard to President Obama's decision to allow federal funding of child cannibalization, otherwise known as embryonic stem cell research. Defenders of the research have said, in effect, "Well, if ESCR bothers you, then what about IVF? How can you defend IVF while opposing ESCR?"

Catholics have it easy, when that question comes up. We can just say, "We don't support IVF. We think it's immoral, and our Church does too. Catholics who seek to use IVF to create children outside of the marital embrace are (objectively) committing a very grave sin." And we can then point the questioner to some of the appropriate Church teachings and writings on this subject.

Our Protestant brethren are not always so lucky. Some of their churches do oppose IVF, of course, but others do not, or don't take a specific position one way or the other. I've heard well-meaning Christians say something along the lines of, "IVF isn't perfect. But when couples are seriously struggling with the pain of infertility, and this offers them the hope of a child, who are we to tell them no? Would we tell them, if they have children using IVF, that those children weren't wanted by God, and shouldn't even be here?"

This is a heartfelt question, but it's not as hard to answer as it seems.

The first part of the answer is the reality that there are lots and lots of children in the world, and indeed in the history of the world, who were conceived in less than ideal circumstances, and even in sinful ways. Among the stories in the Bible are stories of children conceived in incest, in fornication, in adultery. Clearly God did not condone the sins which were committed by the parents of these children; yet He loved the children and their sinful parents, and allowed some of these children to fulfill a purpose in His plan for salvation history.

But we can say, clearly and unequivocally, that rape is gravely wrong, that incest is gravely wrong, that fornication is gravely wrong, and that adultery is gravely wrong. To say this is not ever to deny the worth of children who were conceived as a result of these sins; they are, no less than we are, God's children, and He loves them very much regardless of the sins committed by a parent, or even by both parents. Nonetheless, we must and do oppose the evils these four things truly are, and work toward a goal of eliminating such sins from our lives as Christians and from society itself.

So we can also say, clearly and unequivocally, that IVF is wrong because it reduces the child to an object sought outside of the loving embrace of holy matrimony--though the parents may indeed be married to each other, the act of creation is removed from their acts of love, and takes place in a cold and clinical laboratory. No child should be objectified in this way, and become, instead of the mysterious and magnificent blessing of God, nothing but an act of science, a "thing" brought about as a result of a financial transaction.

As bad as this is, in the practical realm there is one more reason for opposing IVF; and it is this reason that has to do with ESCR.

IVF doesn't just objectify a child, it objectifies children. Would-be parents who turn to IVF will create multiple embryos--the process of removing eggs from the woman is painful and difficult, and the likelihood of any one embryo surviving the implantation process is actually rather slim. So those seeking IVF will create multiple embryos, implanting some of them on each attempt at pregnancy. When 'too many' embryos survive the implantation process, selective abortion is often done to increase the woman's chance of carrying one or two of the children to birth; when a "successful" outcome of pregnancy and birth is achieved, there may be several more embryos frozen at the fertility clinic, which may or may not ever be "used" to try to achieve another pregnancy.

In other words, IVF creates leftover people. People, their developing lives put on hold, waiting in a freezer for Mom and Dad to decide to try again. People, who often die when they are being thawed out for implantation, or in the implantation attempt itself. People, whose likely deaths are accepted by their parents, and who may be given away as leftovers for scientists to experiment on, once Mom and Dad decide they have enough already-born children, and no longer need the rest of the children they created.

This is horrible, of course. But it's a horror we moderns have gotten awfully comfortable accepting--that this child, a boy with brown hair and blue eyes is entitled to live because he survived the implantation process and became a little brother for the first child we manufactured with the lab's help, but that child, whose DNA already shows that she would be a girl, with her mother's blond hair and her grandfather's brown eyes, a striking child, sweet-natured, loving, intelligent--well, we don't need her, she's a leftover, let the scientists have her to take her cells and force them to configure in the ways that they hope will cure diabetes or Parkinson's disease.

Human life is sacred, because we are made in the image and likeness of God. There are no leftover people, even though it is proof of the grave evil of IVF that it has created the notion that there are.


Irenaeus said...

"Our Protestant brethren are not always so lucky"

Yeh. Tell me about it. Even if we did know what we're supposed to do, we'd probably just ignore it. Like homosexuality, or whatever.

LarryD said...

Man, what a great post. I have family members who have either conceived children via IVF or have attempted and miscarried. While the topic has not come up in conversation, I'm sure it will someday and it's articles like yours that will give me confidence to speak the truth with charity and clarity.


Sally said...

This is indeed true, and what is more, when need to come to the realization that no one has a 'right' to a child--even that lovely young married couple at your church. I do realize that adoption is difficult, unfortunately expensive, and truly not something that everyone can do, but IVF is not the solution.

WillyJ said...

So, they would like us to believe that it is otherwise known as embryonic surplus crumbs research.