A pro-life paradox in the age of IVF

Nearly a century ago, Aldous Huxley penned his prescient novel “Brave New World.” It’s a story of a dystopian future of community, stability, and identity, where the citizens have come to love their enslavement.

The novel begins in the “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre,” where human beings are mass-produced in test tubes. The Director leads a group of students around the facility, explaining how the eggs are extracted, inseminated, and allowed to develop according to their predetermined social class: Alphas and Betas, or Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons.

Loss of life is not the only reason IVF is intrinsically immoral and evil. It also treats children as commodities.

“The concept of mass production applied to biology.”

Huxley was opposed to organized religion, but this particular work of his proved to be quite prophetic. Some 40 years after he published “Brave New World,” in-vitro fertilization was accomplished. In 1978, the first “test tube baby” was born.

Man had finally seized control of what is perhaps the most defining characteristic of God: creation.

But at what cost?

The Alabama Supreme Court last month ruled that the embryos used in IVF must be granted the same protections under the law as minors in the state of Alabama, since they are, in fact, unborn human beings. The decision prompted the state’s Republican governor to sign SB 159, a bill that grants immunity to IVF clinics if they destroy the human embryos used in IVF — meaning, these clinics are protected from criminal and civil liability for the destruction of human life.

Presumably in response to public backlash, many self-styled “pro-life” politicians have come out in favor of IVF, claiming the process to be congruent with their pro-life beliefs. But the barbaric and dehumanizing procedures involved in IVF are a far cry from protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life.

It’s estimated that the number of frozen human embryos in the United States could be as high as 1 million. And that doesn’t take into account the countless human beings that have been created only to die days or weeks later in a lab.

During IVF, anywhere from 10 to 20 eggs are retrieved from a woman, with the “magic number” being 15, before they are fertilized, creating 10 to 20 unique human beings who have never existed before and will never exist again.

From there, the embryos are left in a lab to develop for five or six days. Only between 30% and 50% of the embryos still growing after three days will progress to the blastocyst stage, the final stage before these little humans are placed in a freezer.

Then comes genetic testing, to avoid the implantation of a genetically “abnormal” embryo. Dr. Mark Trolice, founder of the IVF Center, explains the advancement he’s seen in this screening process on his organization’s website:

We can test for the gender of the embryo, for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome. That’s very important for an older woman who does IVF; and we can also screen for single gene defects like sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs.

During the transfer stage, there is about a 60% chance that the pregnancy will take in women under 35. But even then, a healthy pregnancy is not guaranteed. A 2017 study found that only 51.7% of single embryo transfers resulted in a live birth, with a 12% miscarriage rate.

If a pregnancy is successful and human embryos are left over, they often remain frozen in labs indefinitely, until the parents decide to have another child, put them up for adoption, or have them destroyed.

Some propose embryo adoption as a solution to the destruction of human life that results from IVF. But loss of life is not the only reason IVF is intrinsically immoral and evil. It also treats children as commodities, which is the underlying message at the center of our culture of death.

Don’t want a child? Our culture tells couples to use contraception and have an abortion if they make a “mistake.” Then, if these couples eventually decide to have a child and find they cannot, IVF allows them to create an abundance of children — most of whom will never make it out of the lab — and root out abnormalities, all on their own time.

This commodification of human life inevitably idolizes children when they are wanted, moving couples to spend tens of thousands of dollars on IVF procedures in their desperation to conceive. But if the children aren’t wanted, they are viewed as a problem to be solved by abortion.

None of this is to say that people born from IVF are not children of God or worthy of love. Praise God that they made it out of the lab! Couples who have struggled with infertility and used IVF are also deserving of compassion and understanding, not condemnation. At the same time, however, we cannot ignore the clear evil involved in IVF procedures.

God designed human bodies with natural procreative measures. If a couple is struggling to conceive, there exists an entire sect of medicine, known as NaProTechnology, designed to work with women’s bodies and help them conceive naturally. These methods also benefit the woman’s health and help her address root causes of hormonal issues that may interfere with pregnancy.

If we want to end the culture of death, we must be morally consistent. To be pro-life means upholding and defending the sanctity of life, and there is no world in which IVF exists where this sanctity is not violated.

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