This lead story in The Washington Post caught my eye this morning, and also caught me by surprise. I didn’t know the United States fertility regulations were so loose:
Danielle Lloyd, a former Miss Great Britain and celebrity mother of four boys, wants to guarantee that her next baby will be a girl. So, she revealed in a TV interview last year, she’s planning to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
The news sparked an uproar in Britain, where screening embryos for gender is prohibited at IVF clinics. Unruffled, Lloyd, 35, began checking out clinics in the few places on the planet where the service is readily available: Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates — and the United States.
“I can see why people are against it, and I don’t want to upset anyone,” Lloyd said. “But I can’t see myself living not having a daughter when I know it’s possible.”
While many countries have moved in recent years to impose boundaries on assisted reproduction, the U.S. fertility industry remains largely unregulated and routinely offers services outlawed elsewhere. As a result, the United States has emerged as a popular destination for IVF patients from around the world seeking controversial services — not just sex selection, but commercial surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation and screening for physical characteristics such as eye color.
This freewheeling approach has been good for business; the U.S. fertility industry is estimated to be worth as much as $5.8 billion this year. But as technological advances outpace any social consensus on such forms of reproductive intervention, discomfort with the hands-off status quo is rising.
Last month, news that a U.S.-educated Chinese researcher had created the world’s first gene-edited infants reignited a debate over the morality of “designer babies.” Some scientific leaders blasted the effort, which purported to make the babies resistant to HIV infection, and urged the U.S. government to step in.
Read on to learn more, including the inconvenient truth that some embryos that don’t fit the desired genetic makeup — the right gender, eye color, etc. — are frequently discarded.
It’s also worth reacquainting ourselves with Catholic teaching on IVF:
One reproductive technology which the Church has clearly and unequivocally judged to be immoral is in vitro fertilization or IVF. Unfortunately, most Catholics are not aware of the Church’s teaching, do not know that IVF is immoral, and some have used it in attempting to have children. If a couple is unaware that the procedure is immoral, they are not subjectively guilty of sin. Children conceived through this procedure are children of God and are loved by their parents, as they should be. Like all children, regardless of the circumstances of their conception and birth, they should be loved, cherished and cared for.The immorality of conceiving children through IVF can be difficult to understand and accept because the man and woman involved are usually married and trying to overcome a “medical” problem (infertility) in their marriage. Yet the procedure does violence to human dignity and to the marriage act and should be avoided. But why, exactly, is IVF immoral?
In vitro fertilization brings about new life in a petri dish. Children engendered through IVF are sometimes known as “test tube babies.” Several eggs are aspirated from the woman’s ovary after she has taken a fertility drug which causes a number of eggs to mature at the same time. Semen is collected from the man, usually through masturbation. The egg and sperm are ultimately joined in a glass dish, where conception takes place and the new life is allowed to develop for several days. In the simplest case, embryos are then transferred to the mother’s womb in the hope that one will survive to term.
Obviously, IVF eliminates the marriage act as the means of achieving pregnancy, instead of helping it achieve this natural end. The new life is not engendered through an act of love between husband and wife, but by a laboratory procedure performed by doctors or technicians. Husband and wife are merely sources for the “raw materials” of egg and sperm, which are later manipulated by a technician to cause the sperm to fertilize the egg.
…In IVF, children are engendered through a technical process, subjected to “quality control,” and eliminated if found “defective.” In their very coming into being, these children are thoroughly subjected to the arbitrary choices of those bringing them into being. In the words of Donum Vitae: “The connection between in vitro fertilization and the voluntary destruction of human embryos occurs too often. This is significant: through these procedures, with apparently contrary purposes, life and death are subjected to the decision of man, who thus sets himself up as the giver of life and death by decree.” The document speaks of “the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage.” To be within and from marriage, conception should occur from the marriage act which by its nature is ordered toward loving openness to life, not from the manipulations of technicians.
The dehumanizing aspects of some of these procedures is evident in the very language associated with them. There is the “reproductive technology industry.” Children are called the “products” of conception. Inherent in IVF is the treatment of children, in their very coming into being, as less than human beings.
For more, read the entire USCCB document on all this, “Begotten Not Made: A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology.”