[notice]In Vitro Fetilisation (IVF) has become a fairly common procedure and a lifeline for many infertile couples. But is there more to this practice than meets the eye? DIANNE STEVEN sounds the alarm on medical, ethical and legal problems associated with IVF. In the third article of a 4-part series she looks at IVF through the lens of certain Biblical and legal considerations.[/notice]
Suggestions that In Vitro Fertilisation is contrary to Biblical teaching comes from a rather surprising source — a former leading IVF practitioner, Anthony Caruso whose views are shared in articles published by Lifesite News.Com. Caruso, a Catholic living in the United States, says he was horrified when he realised that his efforts to help women struggling with infertility were actually counterintuitive to the Biblical design of marriage and view of children. In an article published in June 2011 he says that IVF works against the self-sacrificial nature of a marriage and a family, putting an IVF practitioner and, ultimately, a conceiving couple, in control of something meant to have a natural design. Commenting on a typical practice of transfer a maximum of four embryos in each fertility treatment, and selectively aborting the children if more than one or two survive, he says IVF leads to the “objectification” of children.
“You’d be surprised how many people get to 23, 24 weeks, that used IVF, and have complications with their pregnancies,” he says. “And they say, ‘OK, fine. Just let it go.’ Because essentially they can just go back and do it again.”
In an article published in August 2012 the reproductive endocrinologist tells Lifesite News.com that “One of the basic purposes of marriage is blurred with IVF. Children as gifts from God have become desires and pawns in the life process. … Every child is a gift from God. However, the process that brought them into existence has led to an attitude towards the embryo that is no different than any other commodity.”
Is IVF acceptable in the light of Biblical understanding about the status of the human embryo? (The Bible makes no distinction between a born and an unborn baby as illustrated by the Greek word, “brephos”, used to describe both the intrauterine baby Jesus (Luke 1:44) and the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12). Should we not consider the deliberate killing of a human being to be murder, whether it is in the womb, or in a Petri dish , or after birth?
Exodus 21:22-25 speaks about, ‘if you hurt a pregnant woman, and she has a miscarriage and the baby dies, then you shall give a life for a life!’ The Bible makes it clear that God views human life as beginning at conception, and that throughout the process of development within the womb, a baby has the same right to life as an adult.
Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to find contentment in our circumstances and not pursue selfishness. Does this not include going against God’s natural order to fall pregnant no matter the consequences?
IVF and surrogacy may have all sorts of legal complications and consequences to consider as well.
Mark Langridge, a gay man in the UK became friendly with a lesbian couple in 1997. He agreed to donate sperm so that one of them could bear children. There was a clear understanding that he would not be involved in raising or supporting the children. A court has ordered him to pay maintenance for two children he fathered through this arrangement. Langridge has now discovered that the law is quite clear about private sperm donations before 2009. Only anonymous sperm donors, at licensed centres, are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation. This has never applied to men who donate sperm as part of a personal arrangement. Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child by law, regardless of whether both their names are entered on to the birth certificate.”
Fertility specialists state that a woman younger than 35, on average, generates only eight to 10 embryos a cycle, and has one or two embryos transferred, while another three are usually frozen. CNN reports that in the US there is currently no federal legislation mandating what happens to embryos. “At one extreme, we could be accused of homicide, or negligent homicide, because we’re not taking care of an embryo. At the more reasonable level, we could be considered negligent in general”.
What is the legal future with IVF? Could a ‘Personhood Statute’ impact IVF? Human life begins with fertilisation, and bills that could criminalize in vitro fertilization will cause specialists to fear that if a bill like this becomes law, it would prompt doctors to limit the number of eggs they take from a donor, as well as the number of embryos they create. Physicians fear that limiting what happens to the embryos may in turn hinder how physicians work. So both the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and Resolve oppose personhood legislation. “If one of these bills pass and a physician or lab tech drops an embryo on the floor, have they just committed homicide? Manslaughter?” asked Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
“In a typical in vitro cycle, there’s more than one embryo created,” explained Dr Daniel Shapiro, a fertility specialist with Reproductive Biology Associates. Shapiro went on, “If you’re being safe and cautious, you only put one embryo – at most two – back into a patient at a time. So what happens with the leftover embryos? Many of them are frozen, and many of them are never used.”
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, agrees that a personhood statute would change IVF. “I do believe that declaring a pre-born, ‘a baby’, could impact IVF,” Mason says.
IVF also threatens to transform procreation into a consumer activity. The problem of ‘biological colonialism’ is very severe and growing.