IVF: The Devil in the Details

How Artificial Reproductive Technologies Devalue Human Life

Throughout my experiences with pro-life organizations, I've witnessed incredible devotion toward protecting the sanctity of life in the womb from both Christian and secular advocates. I've also witnessed that these same advocates tend to be uninformed or apathetic toward the taking of innocent life through reproductive technologies.

I'd grown up knowing abortion was wrong, but my fight against unethical reproductive technologies didn't begin until my early twenties. I can't blame anyone for being uninformed about these issues when the harms of these technologies receive so little attention. It was upon learning more deeply about both traditional and gestational surrogacy, practices that contain within them the IVF process and/or the intentional severing of children from their biological parents, that I knew pro-life advocacy needed to go further than the fight against abortion.

Those who do know about these technologies may think that any act that allows infertile couples to create new life can't possibly be immoral. Others may tend not to "go there" for fear of offending infertile couples. I've been told that I "have no idea how it feels to not be able to have children." That would be right. I also have no idea how it feels to be pregnant and so desperate to get back to my pre-pregnant life that I would take the life of my own child. In the pro-life community, we know that none of our desires warrant intentionally devaluing or eliminating human life. Yet that is exactly what in-vitro fertilization (IVF) inherently contains within its processes.

In-Vitro Fertilization

How does IVF dehumanize human beings? First, a doctor combines the woman's eggs and the man's sperm in a petri dish. The new life is begotten not through an act of love between husband and wife, but in a laboratory, where the husband and wife, or even strangers, are just sources of gametes.

This combining procedure produces several human lives with the full knowledge that not all, if any, will survive. You may be wondering, What if only one embryo is created and transferred? What if that one baby lives, and therefore no lives are lost? Well, was there any guarantee that this one embryo, which was intentionally and unnaturally created to be potentially disposable, would transfer successfully? No. So, a unique person's life was still intentionally devalued, whether one embryo or ten were created.

Second, these new human beings must be deemed worthy of transfer into the woman's uterus based on their "morphological grade" and possibly also after they have passed a eugenic preimplantation screening. The morphological grade determines where the embryo is in its development process and its potential for successful implantation. Next, depending upon the desires of the commissioning parents and physician (because many people spinning the wheel of chance with human lives don't want to risk acquiring a less-than-perfect product), preimplantation screenings are often performed to detect chromosomal abnormalities or genetic defects. The possibility exists, of course, that if those weeded-out, "subpar" human beings had been conceived without human intervention, they would have been perfectly viable. Instead, their lives are simply tossed aside; rather than letting nature take its course, powerful humans get to decide whether they are even worthy of implantation or not.

Couples can also find out the sex of their embryos and choose to only implant girls, or boys, depending on what they prefer. What could better demonstrate that you consider all of your children potentially disposable than saying that one of them isn't the "right" sex?

What happens to the extra persons who are created but not transferred? They're either placed into frozen limbo, from whence they may or may not eventually be transferred and survive, or they're donated for scientific research and outright destroyed. In a 2011 study, a total of 1,991 zygotes, 2,880 embryos frozen three days after fertilization, and 503 blastocysts that were deemed of "good quality" were thawed. The survival rates for these thawed humans were approximately 69 percent, 85 percent, and 88 percent, respectively.1 While these seem to be high survival rates, what about the "good quality" humans who died during the thawing process? And what is a "good quality" human, anyway? 

Further, the longer an embryo is frozen, the less likely are its chances of survival. Scientists in China observed frozen embryos from 24,000 patients and discovered, after comparing embryos frozen for three months with those frozen between twelve and twenty-four months, that the pregnancy rate fell from 56 percent to 26 percent between the two groups. They also discovered that the live-birth rate declined from 47 percent for the first group to 26 percent for the latter, with maternal age not found to be a factor.2 But wait—aren't single women often told that they should freeze their eggs to "preserve their fertility"? Could it be that the fertility industry cares more about its bottom line and what it can earn through embryo storage fees than it does about human life?

On the scientific research end of things, there has been discussion of expanding the permissible time for conducting embryonic research from the current upper limit of 14 days past fertilization, which is when the nervous system begins to develop, to 28 days.3 The fact that embryos have nervous systems at 14 days should tell us all we need to know about their humanity.

Before rushing into the IVF process, we must contemplate the following: Don't human beings deserve more dignity than to be frozen while others decide if they're worthy of a chance at life? Don't human beings deserve better than to be created just to be destroyed because they no longer serve the interests of certain adults?

Gamete Donation

Another aspect of the IVF process that devalues the lives of innocent human beings is the use of gamete donors. Whenever a man or woman is unable to use his or her own sperm or eggs, or when a single person feels that he or she deserves a child despite not having a partner, that person will use donor gametes because, of course, it's still important for people in these circumstances to have some sort of genetic connection to their children. Who cares about what the children might want, as long as the adults get what they want?

However, like Christ, we are beings who are "begotten, not made." Children are not products to be ordered up to satisfy the desires of adults. Yet that is how they are treated in the process of gamete donation.

At Them Before Us, an organization dedicated to defending the rights of children over the desires of adults, we take the position that there exists a natural, fundamental right for children to be loved and known by their biological mothers and fathers, the only  persons from whom they inherit their unique genealogical identities.4 Children develop and piece together their own identities, in large part, by knowing and interacting with both of their parents. Seeing our own characteristics in our parents and other family members is how we differentiate ourselves from the rest of humanity.

To intentionally deprive any child of the right to be raised by the two persons responsible for his or her existence is an injustice to that child. In this way, donor conception differs from adoption. Adoption, ideally, seeks to mend the wound caused by a child's separation from his biological mother and father, whereas donor conception intentionally inflicts separation trauma onto a child.5

Adult "Products" of IVF Speak for Themselves

In my work with Them Before Us, I've encountered numerous stories of children brought into the world through donor conception. All of these stories have one thing in common: the children's lives were devalued and their essential needs disregarded before conception even took place. But don't just take my word for it; let these adult children tell you:

Primal Luv: "Changing the name from mother + father to donor . . . doesn't excuse the reality that mother had children with another man and not her partner and vice versa, and she is carrying down the 'donor's' lineage instead. A contract and words doesn't change biology. No amount of mind conditioning or delusion can stop that fact [from] being true. . . . To be raised by two persons who you were once cells of, by a woman who you bonded with when growing in her tummy . . . and be made not from cash but from mutual love from all parties, and to be able to look into the mirror and have your daddy's eyes, Mommy's nose. . . . To have playmates to grow up with who look like you and share your creators, and be loved in a family where genetics and affection unite us together and separates us from the rest of the world—to be loved by the two who created you and not from the strangers who bought you, is natural and beautiful. But I was denied this primal family structure to support a business and an unfamiliar infertile couple."6

I Think About Her Every Day: "I'm personally against [egg and sperm donation], based on how I feel about my conception and my life. It bothers me that I cost money, that the one woman I want most in this life is a stranger yet 50% of me. Sometimes I wish I weren't born. I didn't ask for this, and I never would have consented to it. . . . No one should have to spend hours on hours feeling alone and wondering about half of their biological family. I wouldn't wish this pain and wondering on ANYONE."7

Always Felt There's Something Missing: "I can't imagine how it feels to be desperate for a child like my mother was, but there rarely seems to be any thought in any discussion I've seen on how the child conceived by a donor might feel. . . . I know I wouldn't exist had the donor sperm not been administered by a doctor, but that's not the point. . . . If it's so important to you to have in some way a child with a biological link to you, think about how for the child having a biological link is equally important. Perhaps more. Having a child by donor isn't just about the parent's needs and rights. The child will have to deal with being produced through a medical procedure as I was. It might affect them for their entire life."8

To sum up, out of the IVF process we get millions of dead embryonic children, the commodification of human beings, the treatment of human beings as the subjects of laboratory experiments involving eugenic practices, and the purposeful deprivation of the Creator-designed foundation for well-rounded development in children. Hey, pro-lifers, can we start, as well, to object to immoral reproductive practices?

1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136065.
2. sciencetimes.com/articles/26188/20200624/human-egg-freezing-vitro-fertilization-longer-wait-lower-positive-outcomes.htm.
3. Sophia McCully, "The time has come to extend the 14-day limit," Journal of Medical Ethics (Feb. 2, 2021): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33531360.
4. https://thembeforeus.com.
5. https://thembeforeus.com/third-party-reproduction-vs-adoption-theres-a-big-difference.
6. https://anonymousus.org/primal-luv-from-a-book-wright.
7. https://anonymousus.org/i-think-about-her-every-day.
8. https://anonymousus.org/always-felt-theres-something-missing.

works for the children's rights organization Them Before Us. She holds a master's degree in Mental Health and Wellness with an emphasis in family dynamics and a graduate certificate in trauma-informed practice and is working towards a second masters in bioethics. She has written for various outlets on beginning and end-of-life issues, and has had articles published in The Times UK and The Scotsman through her work as a research associate for the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #60, Spring 2022 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo60/ivf-the-devil-in-the-details


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