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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.
What is IVF? In vitro is Latin for “in glass,” and during IVF, egg follicles are removed from a woman and mixed with a man’s sperm in a petri dish with the aim that they will fertilize. Upon fertilization, one or more of the embryonic children created are then transferred into a woman’s uterus in hopes they will implant. Because there is only a 29.4 percent success rate of implantation*, doctors usually create several children “in glass” at once to have more on hand for further implantation attempts.
What about these embryonic children “in glass”? Did you know they are genetically whole human beings—they are no longer their father or their mother but have a material composition and behavior pattern distinct from both parents—yet they have no legal rights of their own in this country? That is, they have the right to be created but not the right to live. At the whim of a parent, a doctor, a technician, or a divorce court judge, these children can be:
These children also, because of a complete lack of regulation in the fertility industry, have no legal right to know who their biological parents are, nor do they have any legal access to their genetic medical history. At the very least, IVF disrespects the personhood of these children created “in glass.”
The Office of Population Affairs currently estimates there are more than 600,000 of these children frozen in the United States today. That number does not take into account all of the IVF children who have died from failed implantation, being selectively terminated in the womb, being disposed of at the hand of a technician, or not surviving the thawing process.
How did this happen? How did we as a culture begin creating extra human beings and then freezing and disposing of them for our own advantage? Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute explains in an interview with Todd Wilken on the radio program “Issues, Etc.”:
[N]obody ever sat down and said to themselves, ‘You know, I think it would be a great idea if anyone with money could do anything they want as far as bringing a child into being…’ We just kind of drifted into this position, and the in vitro fertilization industry is pretty much unregulated…[P]eople seem to think that as long as the adults get what they want, they don’t really have to think through what they’re doing to the individual child…I think it is really quite appalling that what we’ve got is a system that is being driven by two things…One, it’s being driven by the passions of the infertile woman, and, two, it’s being driven by the greed of the infertility industry…There’s nothing built in to in vitro fertilization and the industry around it that stops people from going too far. Absolutely nothing.
IVF also now lists third-party reproduction among its top abuses. With enough money, American citizens can purchase every ingredient needed to produce a child—sperm, egg, hormones, womb, you name it.
In a recent article by Tamar Lewin in The New York Times, Dr. Earnest Zeringue of Davis, California, admits to buying eggs and sperm “from donors whose profiles are likely to have broad appeal” then using them to create embryonic children which are then distributed to three or four families at a time.
Besides the obvious concerns raised about the eugenic leanings of such a practice, doctors, lawyers, and other conscience-stricken citizens struggle against the real fear that these farmed children may, unawares, grow up to someday marry their own siblings.
There is no question these children are vulnerable and in need of protection, but Alana S. Newman writes in the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse that “the rights of children are in direct conflict with the agenda of the fertility industry and its clients.” They are also in direct conflict with the abortion industry, and any attempt to legalize the personhood of these children and to defend their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will meet great resistance.
Yet defend them we must, because IVF and third-party reproduction is human trafficking, only on a much bigger, legally sanctioned scale.
*The success rate for implantation rises and lowers in correlation with a woman’s age and health.