August 07, 2014

Think, for baby's sake

Frank Nelson, BJ Barone, and baby Milo (June 27, 2014) Lindsay Foster photo

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, August 7, 2014

Think, for baby's sake

Photos of two shirtless gay men holding a freshly born baby circulated widely on the internet recently. Commentators' emotions gushed, turning the baby into a poster child for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

Unnoticed, however, is IVF's moral nightmare.

IVF means fertilization "in glass," that is, fertilization in a test tube or Petri dish.

IVF involves these steps: (1) a woman's ovaries are stimulated to release multiple eggs; (2) 5-15 eggs are extracted via minor surgery; (3) sperm is obtained via masturbation; (4) eggs and sperm are placed in a dish where fertilization occurs; (5) up to three embryos are placed in a woman's uterus; (6) remaining embryos are frozen.

If IVF is successful, an embryo implants in the uterus and an infant is born nine months later. If not successful, leftover embryos are thawed and more embryos are implanted.

So far, so good? Nope.

IVF has huge moral concerns that shouldn't be eclipsed by the wants of wannabe parents, whether gay or straight.

Because up to three embryos are placed in the uterus, it's not uncommon for more than one implantation. Enter these problems: (1) too many children, thereby risking the gestational mother's health; (2) "selective termination," i.e., abortion of the extra child/ children.

Also, IVF usually creates more frozen embryos than needed. Enter the problem of what to do with the "leftovers." Garbage? Research?

But contemporary science—embryology, fetology, biology—tells us that the human embryo is a human being (not a dog being or a kitten). Surely, discarding or doing research on human beings—research that destroys them—is problematic.

Also, when donor sperm and donor eggs are involved, don't biologically based moral obligations to the IVF-created child accrue to the donors? We usually think that biological parents have moral obligations to their offspring—after all, we sue biological fathers for child support because they are biological fathers.

In fact, sperm donors become biological fathers via IVF, and egg donors become biological mothers via IVF. There apparently is, then, a nature-based moral duty to care for and raise one's offspring which gets violated. Isn't this violation unfair to children?

When sperm and egg donors—i.e., the biological parents—are anonymous, growing evidence shows that IVF children struggle deeply with personal identity. For a child, knowledge of his/ her biological mother and biological father is important. But anonymous sperm and egg donors obliterate this connection. Surely this (too) is unfair to children.

In the case of same-sex couples who create a child via IVF, a baby is deliberately deprived of (at least) one of his/her biological parents (solely because two adults want a baby). Surely, this is unfair to children (as well). And it's more unfair if sexual as well as gender differentiated parenting are important to the baby's well-being.

Furthermore, IVF creates markets for women's eggs and egg harvesting presents serious health risks to women. Enter the problem of "eggsploitation"—the exploitation of women for their eggs.

IVF also creates markets for surrogate mothers who face health risks. Women (especially poor women) are being exploited for their wombs. This contributes to the creation of a subclass of women—a.k.a. "breeders".

IVF-created people should be loved and respected, to be sure. But IVF threatens to turn children into commodities, especially if the children are the product of sperm and egg sellers and if relations between parents and surrogates involve financial transactions.

In other words, IVF may very well aid and abet human trafficking, albeit at the earliest stages of human being.

Finally, there are many already-born, non-IVF children who need parents. Surely, the adoption of these children should occur first and instead of IVF.

Whereas adoption is a rescue operation aimed at helping needy children already there, IVF steps into moral darkness with the aim of creating new children to satisfy adult wants.

Stop emoting over the baby pictures. Think (and act) like morally responsible adults, for the baby's sake.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

Further reading:

1 comment:

Andrew Eddy said...

An excellent article. Thank you.