Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


In Vitro Fertilization: The Costs and American Consumerism

Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS, Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett is a danger to families who desperately want children. So says Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., based on an advertisement which Barrett signed back in 2006, which included the statement that “we defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” This, Duckworth suggests, disqualifies Barrett from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Duckworth, who has two daughters through IVF, told Fox News: “If a fertilized egg is a person, then that really has significant negative consequences for a family like mine that desperately wanted to have children.”


I don’t know Judge Barrett from Adam. But I do know something about infertility and the IVF industry. The IVF industry appeals to the worst instincts of American consumerism. The Catholic critique of artificial reproductive technologies is morally defensible.

It is common for people struggling with fertility to ask about in vitro fertilization costs – to try and understand how to incorporate those into their family budgets. One cost aspect not often considered is the cost in human lives, and the impacts this will have on the couple and their children.

Get what you want, the way you want it, when you want it. Sounds like a fine idea. Pick the one you want. Pay for it. Ignore all the others. Or just throw away anything you are tired of or don’t want, or that doesn’t satisfy you. Or you could turn it in for a refund. Or maybe you could buy a few extras to keep on hand just in case you want more. You can always throw them away later. Or maybe donate them to a charity.

“Have it your way,” is a fine advertising slogan for hamburgers. Take advantage of quantity discounts and stock up just in case, is a fine strategy for buying paper towels. The costs associated with such transactions are minimal, especially since they only involve objects. But the “object” in question when considering artificial reproductive technologies is not an object at all, but a person.

IVF, IVF baby, in vitro fertilization

You may ask, “What is IVF?” to put it simply – My spouse and I have our eggs and sperm removed from our bodies and we pay a stranger to mix them. Or, I buy the sperm or egg of a stranger. I pay someone to mix their gametes with mine. I look at the embryos. With the help of an expert with exquisite taste, I choose the ones I want. I throw away the rest. Or, maybe, I put them in cold storage, just in case I decide I want them later.

This is the “assisted reproductive technology” industry, including IVF, surrogacy and related technologies. Consumers of this product are sometimes called “commissioning parents.” The fact that people want the product is supposed to be a sufficient moral justification to allow them to have what they want, regardless of the costs involved.

Two points for the record: First, we must never regret the existence of a particular child, no matter how that child was conceived. Disapproval of the circumstances of a person’s conception does not translate into a belief that the person so conceived is unworthy or defective. Presumably, everyone opposes rape as an immoral act. But a child conceived in rape is still a full member of the human race, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection. Likewise, the IVF baby (a child conceived through artificial means) is fully human, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection.

Second, do not try to dismiss my arguments with the assertion that I don’t know the pain of infertility. As a matter of fact, I do. My husband and I dealt with infertility for four painful years. We can attest that it is a miserable experience. What we deny is that the depth of our misery or the intensity of our desire for a child is relevant to the question at hand.

infertility, childless couple 

Duckworth herself raised one of the crucial questions. Without seeming to realize the significance of her statement, she told Fox News:

“In my case, with both of my girls, they looked at two or three fertilized eggs, not even embryos at this point, and said, you know, this one isn’t very viable,” Duckworth explained. “The third discarded could result in my doctor being criminalized.”

This is when Duckworth stated: “If a fertilized egg is a person, then that really has significant negative consequences for a family like mine that desperately wanted to have children.”

What exactly is the third “discarded” thing? Duckworth says these zygotes are “not even embryos” at this point. Does she deny that the zygote is alive? How can a non-living thing be “viable” or “not very viable?” The terms “zygote,” “embryo,” and “fetus” describe stages of biological human development, not the development into a human person.

This is the first of the contradictions of this position. If the zygote is chosen, it is Duckworth’s precious child. If it is discarded, does that mean it never was anything or anyone of value? Imagine the psychological cost on a person who treats the smallest, most vulnerable humans with such callous disregard.

Here is a related ethical dilemma. Suppose they don’t want to discard the embryo, but they don’t want to gestate her right away, either. So they freeze her. Later, they unfreeze her, gestate her, and then she becomes their precious child. What was this person during the time that she was frozen? An object? A nonperson?

Now you may think that I am causing problems here, because I referred to the frozen embryo as a person. “You blurred the distinction between the zygote and the embryo and the ultimate person. If we would just all get on board with the proper terminology and proper thought process, that all these problems would go away.”

But honestly, it doesn’t have to be me who raises this question. What if one of the living children herself brings up these topics? “Hey Mom and Dad, what about all my frozen siblings? Did you guys really kill a couple of my siblings on the very day that you “chose” me to live? I could have been the one that got frozen or killed.” And so on.

Will you have answers for these questions? Will your answers be good enough for her? For that matter, will your answers be good enough for you and for your child’s other parent as the years go by? Was the cost of the IVF worth it?

I have known people who have been in agony for years over their frozen children. I know an adult man whose mother revealed that she had an abortion when he was a teenager. The “survivors guilt” and disorientation he experienced were surreal. These questions will not all go away, just because no one is asking them right now.

Questions of this kind flow directly from the initial proposition that children are best viewed as the objects of their parents’ will. If the parents want the child, the child has legally recognized rights. If the parents do not want the child, they can do anything they want, at least before birth, and possibly beyond.

happy family, wanted children, loved children

The most coherent alternative moral position is each child is an unrepeatable gift from a loving God. God created this particular child to reflect his goodness in some unique way. Our participation in the procreative process is to love our child’s other parent and allow God to bless that love as he deems best for all of us. As parents, we accept the children God gives us and care for each of them to the best of our ability. If God does not give us children, we accept this fact with grace and move on with our lives.

As I say, I do not know Judge Amy Coney Barrett or what she believes. But I do know this: the IVF industry is indefensible. The Catholic alternative is both intellectually coherent and morally defensible. And I am not ashamed to say so.

 

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.


 

 

 

This article originally posted at https://www.ncregister.com/commentaries/amy-coney-barrett-s-fitness-for-the-supreme-court-in-vitro-fertilization-and-american-consumerism


 


 



Amy Coney Barrett’s Fitness for the Supreme Court: In Vitro Fertilization and American Consumerism

by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

This article first posted at National Catholic Register on October 13, 2020.

COMMENTARY: I don’t know Judge Amy Coney Barrett. But I know something about infertility and artificial reproductive technologies.

Amy Coney Barrett is a danger to families who desperately want children. So says Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., based on an advertisement which Barrett signed back in 2006, which included the statement that “we defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” This, Duckworth suggests, disqualifies Barrett from the U.S. Supreme Court.


Duckworth, who has two daughters through IVF, told Fox News: “If a fertilized egg in a person is a person, then that really has significant negative consequences for a family like mine that desperately wanted to have children.”

I don’t know Judge Barrett from Adam. But I do know something about infertility and the IVF industry. The IVF industry appeals to the worst instincts of American consumerism. The Catholic critique of artificial reproductive technologies is morally defensible.

Get what you want, the way you want it, when you want it. Sounds like a fine idea. Pick the one you want. Pay for it. Ignore all the others. Or just throw away anything you are tired of or don’t want, or that doesn’t satisfy you. Or you could turn it in for a refund. Or maybe you could buy a few extras to keep on hand just in case you want more. You can always throw them away later. Or maybe donate them to a charity.

“Have it your way,” is a fine advertising slogan for hamburgers. Take advantage of quantity discounts and stock up just in case, is a fine strategy for buying paper towels. But the “object” in question when considering artificial reproductive technologies is not an object at all, but a person. I buy the sperm or egg of a stranger. I pay someone to mix their gametes with mine. I look at the embryos. With the help of an expert with exquisite taste, I choose the ones I want. I throw away the rest. Or, maybe, I put them in cold storage, just in case I decide I want them later.

This is the “assisted reproductive technology” industry, including IVF, surrogacy and related technologies. Consumers of this product are sometimes called “commissioning parents.” The fact that people want the product is supposed to be a sufficient moral justification to allow them to have what they want.

Two points for the record: First, we must never regret the existence of a particular child, no matter how that child was conceived. Disapproval of the circumstances of a person’s conception does not translate into a belief that the person so conceived is unworthy or defective. Presumably, everyone opposes rape as an immoral act. But a child conceived in rape is still a full member of the human race, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection. Likewise, the child conceived through artificial means is fully human, fully deserving of respect, love and legal protection.

Second, do not try to dismiss my arguments with the assertion that I don’t know the pain of infertility. As a matter of fact, I do. My husband and I dealt with infertility for four painful years. We can attest that it is a miserable experience. What we deny is that the depth of our misery or the intensity of our desire for a child is relevant to the question at hand.

Duckworth herself raised one of the crucial questions. Without seeming to realize the significance of her statement, she told Fox News:

“In my case, with both of my girls, they looked at two or three fertilized eggs, not even embryos at this point, and said, you know, this one isn’t very viable,” Duckworth explained. “The third discarded could result in my doctor being criminalized.”

Duckworth added: “If a fertilized egg in a person is a person, then that really has significant negative consequences for a family like mine that desperately wanted to have children.”

What exactly is the third “discarded” thing? Duckworth says these zygotes are “not even embryos” at this point. Does she deny that the zygote is alive? How can a non-living thing be “viable” or “not very viable?” The terms “zygote,” “embryo,” and “fetus” describe stages of biological human development, not the development into a human person.

This is the first of the contradictions of this position. If the zygote is chosen, it is Duckworth’s precious child. If it is discarded, does that mean it never was anything or anyone of value?

Here is a related ethical dilemma. Suppose they don’t want to discard the embryo, but they don’t want to gestate her right away, either. So they freeze her. Later, they unfreeze her, gestate her, and then she becomes their precious child. What was this person during the time that she was frozen? An object? A nonperson?

Now you may think that I am causing problems here, because I referred to the frozen embryo as a person. “You blurred the distinction between the zygote and the embryo and the ultimate person. If we would just all get on board with the proper terminology and proper thought process, then all these problems would go away.”

But honestly, it doesn’t have to be me who raises this question. What if one of the living children herself brings up these topics? “Hey Mom and Dad, what about all my frozen siblings? Did you guys really kill a couple of my siblings on the very day that you “chose” me to live? I could have been the one that got frozen or killed.” And so on.

Will you have answers for these questions? Will your answers be good enough for her? For that matter, will your answers be good enough for you and for your child’s other parent as the years go by?

I have known people who have been in agony for years over their frozen children. I know an adult man whose mother revealed that she had an abortion when he was a teenager. The “survivors guilt” and disorientation he experienced were surreal. These questions will not all go away, just because no one is asking them right now.

Questions of this kind flow directly from the initial proposition that children are best viewed as the objects of their parents’ will. If the parents want the child, the child has legally recognized rights. If the parents do not want the child, they can do anything they want, at least before birth, and possibly beyond.

The most coherent alternative moral position is each child is an unrepeatable gift from a loving God. God created this particular child to reflect his goodness in some unique way. Our participation in the procreative process is to love our child’s other parent and allow God to bless that love as he deems best for all of us. As parents, we accept the children God gives us and care for each of them to the best of our ability. If God does not give us children, we accept this fact with grace and move on with our lives.

As I say, I do not know Judge Amy Coney Barrett or what she believes. But I do know this: the IVF industry is indefensible. The Catholic alternative is both intellectually coherent and morally defensible. And I am not ashamed to say so.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the founder and president of The Ruth Institute. Her latest book is The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies are Destroying Lives (and how the Church was Right All Along).

 

 


What is Surrogacy and Why You Should Oppose It

What is surrogacy and why you should oppose it

Gestational Surrogate, gay couple

While most people have a cursory understanding of surrogacy, most haven’t thought through its implications. What is surrogacy? Broadly speaking, it is a situation where a woman agrees to carry a child to term for another person, or couple. Gestational surrogacy is when the mother that carries the baby is not biologically related to the baby. It usually starts with in-vitro fertilization, a donor's eggs are harvested, fertilized outside the body, and a tiny human being comes into existence.


For the pro-life individual it doesn’t seem bad thing, it means more babies going to more homes. For the progressive, it seems ok because people to fulfill their reproductive goals. The larger implications, however, should cause everyone to pause. Surrogacy is a market for humans, exploits women and children, and gives the surrogate mother fewer protections than adoption.

Buying and selling humans generally has the connotation of slavery, and isn’t often associated with smiling birth-mothers, and crying recipients. On the other hand, the surrogacy industry is estimated to be worth $30 billion worldwide. Local surrogacy centers pay up to $55,000 to qualifying surrogate mothers. The cost of surrogacy for the “commissioning parents” ranges from $90,000 to over $130,000. Any time we buy and sell some good or service, that's a market.

Embryo fertilization, invitro fertilization, surrogacy

The difference in economic situations between the surrogates and the commissioning parents unfortunately leads to economic exploitation, even within the United States. There isn’t a lot of law or regulation governing the surrogacy industry. 31 states have no regulations regarding surrogacy, and a lot of surrogacy interactions are governed by contracts, many of which provide for custom-made babies. These contracts also place the surrogate mothers in an exploitable position. To remedy this, Sweden has banned all surrogacy.

Surrogate mothers have fewer rights than adoptive parents. There are too many horror stories to share here, regarding the commissioning parents mistreatment or abuse the surrogate mothers before the baby is born. And no matter what behavior the commissioning parent engages in, from the moment the baby is born, the surrogate mother generally has to relinquish the child. Even mothers who place their baby for adoption can choose to keep her after she is born.

Anderson Cooper and partner, surrogacy, co-parenting

We justify poorer treatment of surrogate mothers, ostensibly, because they are paid. Surrogacy contracts place the reproductive capacity, choices, and body of a poor woman, outside of her control, and into the hands of wealthier, more powerful people. This arrangement seems to stand at odds with the concept, beloved of the Sexual State, that a woman has a moral right to decide what to do with her own body. If a woman has a right to decide what to do with her body, can a few slips of paper place someone else in control of her reproductive choices and health?

Surrogacy created humans, also known as embryos, usually are treated as less than second-class citizens. Doctors often implant multiple eggs, hoping for some to survive. In the event that multiple do survive, the surrogate can be contractually required to abort some of the babies via “selective reduction.” In the case that additional embryos are created and not implanted, they face an indefinite freeze, are donated to science, or are destroyed immediately. When the children are born, sometimes the “commissioning parents” will refuse to take disabled children.

This isn’t an abstract issue either. Senator Tammy Duckworth recently criticized Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s stance on aborting fertilized eggs. Senator Duckworth said, “She supports groups like the St. Joseph County Right to Life, which says they support the criminalization of IVF procedures that would result in the destruction of fertilized eggs… In my case, with both of my girls, they looked at two or three fertilized eggs, not even embryos at this point, and said, you know, this one isn’t very viable.” The third egg was “discarded.” It is inhumanly callous to treat a human, no matter how small, as an inconvenience to be discarded.

distressed girl, children with no link to parents

Additionally, the legal status of the child is thrown into limbo. Surrogacy may involve as many as five separate individuals: the egg donor, the sperm donor, the gestational carrier, and the two commissioning parents. With all these participants involved with the creation of a baby, sorting out who has parental rights becomes a terrible tangle.

Owning, controlling, and selling humans debased the “owners” and dehumanized the men and women who were enslaved. Even though slavery and the slave trade were banned over 150 years ago, we are still dealing with the repercussions. We ought to ask ourselves if we should engage in another market for human beings. This surrogacy market that not only allows for the selling of humans, but economically exploits the mothers, and cuts the baby’s biological ties to the woman who carried her.


Ruth Inst: Commission on Unalienable Rights Did a Good, not Great, Job

The United States Commission on Unalienable Rights has issued its long-awaited report, and, not surprisingly, sexual radicals have launched an all-out attack.

Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated: “We applaud the Commission for an excellent exposition of the origins of human rights. But we wish it had gone further and issued a strong defense of the natural rights that are currently under assault.”

The Commission’s report pointedly did not mention the right to life, or children’s rights to a relationship with both of their parents, or parents’ rights to educate their children.


 

“Sexual radicals will not be satisfied by anything less than total surrender to their ideological agenda,” Morse said. “No sooner was the report issued than groups like Planned Parenthood and the LGBT Human Rights Campaign began attacking it. Instead of trying to avoid controversy, the Commission should have come out unequivocally for the rights to life and man-woman marriage.”

Morse noted: “The sexual ideologues called the Report an attempt to ‘substitute the ideology of the administration’ for recognition and protection of reproductive and LGBT rights as ‘human rights imperatives.’ These ‘imperatives’ are pure fantasy.”

Morse continued, “The rights they assert to be ‘universal’ were created by activist courts and were unknown a few decades ago. The right to life and the definition of marriage are based on natural law and were recognized in U.S. law until overturned by bad Supreme Court decisions.”

“The distinguished Commission on Unalienable Rights did an admirable job of tracing the development of rights in the United States,” Morse explained. “Then it stopped short of defending the right to life.” The Commission was appointed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to advise the State Department on the origins of human rights, to help it in its dealings with foreign governments and international bodies.

The Ruth Institute supported the creation of the Commission. The Ruth Institute’s Rev. Mark Hodges testified before it, and
Dr. Morse testified at a hearing on February 21st. At that time, she presented Chairman Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard Law School with a petition signed by more than 8,000 activists and leaders (including Gov. Mike Huckabee and Alveda King – the niece of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) calling on the Commission to support an understanding of rights related to the family, including:

  • The right of every child to a relationship with his or her natural mother and father except for an unavoidable tragedy
  • The right of every person to know the identity of his or her biological parents
  • The right to life from conception to natural death
  • The right of parents to educate their own children in their faith tradition and values without being undermined by the state.

Click here for the Ruth Institute’s press release on the presentation of its Make the Family Great Again Petition.

  • The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.
  • To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact media@ruthinstitute.org.


Dr. Morse's Presentation to the Commission on Unalienable Rights

Presentation to the Commission on Unalienable Rights

US Department of State

February 21, 2020

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.

Founder and President, The Ruth Institute

[Pictured: Dr. Morse (L) presenting Chairwoman Dr. Mary Ann Glendon with the Make the Family Great Again petition and signatures.]

Good afternoon, Madame Chairwoman, and distinguished members of the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. I am Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Founder and President of the Ruth Institute. The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization, leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.

I am here to present our petition to Make The Family Great Again to this Commission. In this petition, we explain how and why the family itself has rights. We want this Commission to know that a worldwide coalition supports this view.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:


  • That every person comes into the world as a helpless baby
  • That every person has a mother and a father
  • That children need their parents
  • That the needs of children place limitations on adult society, including limits on adult sexual behavior
  • That every society needs institutional structures for ensuring children develop from helpless infants to responsible flourishing adults

Therefore, we urge this Commission to consider the following rights of children and families in its deliberations.

  • The right of every child to a relationship with his or her natural mother and father, except for an unavoidable tragedy
  • The right of every person without exception, to know the identity of his or her biological parents
  • The right to life from conception to natural death
  • The right of families to educate their own children in their faith tradition and values, without being undermined by the state

Pro-family leaders from around the world have signed our petition, which we undertook in partnership with Life Petitions. The pro-family leaders from Latin America and Africa are especially aware of the harm international agencies can do when they ignore the rights of the family mentioned in our petition. All too often, the United States government has collaborated in the promotion of destructive policies which undermine the rights of children to their parents, and parents' rights and responsibilities toward their children.

The Ruth Institute and its international interfaith coalition whole-heartedly supports the cause of making the family great again, worldwide.

Thank you very much.

(The Ruth Institute collaborated with Life Petitions to create and circulate this petition, which can be found here. A partial list of signatories can be found here.)

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