What’s Wrong With In Vitro Fertilization?  



Deeming artificial conception good because it produces a baby that a parent wants resembles building one’s dream house atop an ancient burial ground or in an area of natural wonder.   Taking a superficial view, those directly involved, and their family and friends, think it’s great.   Yet, when one thinks more deeply and more collectively, do these processes cost society something unseen, invaluable and sacred?  Assisted conception advocates probably have not considered the following.


First, assisted conception entails the buying and selling of life.  In a world where everything from crackers to sex to peace of mind (e.g., Prozac) is for sale, assisted conception is consumerism taken to its extreme.  


Second, IVF entails the mass production-- and mass destruction-- of life and engenders an “ownership” orientation to life. Because it’s economically efficient to do so, IVF practitioners make multiple embryos, use as many as their “owners” want, freeze the rest for years and destroy them when their owners approve destruction.   A question for those who suggest that these embryos are just undifferentiated cell masses:  If these embryos have no special identity, why do people (or, now, the population at large that subsidizes these processes by paying health insurance premiums) spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to implant not just any old embryos, but, instead, insist on those which bear the characteristics that they hold dear?


Third, IVF is high tech eugenics.  IVF embryos are genetically screened for defects and gender.  Only those considered suitable are implanted.  Presently, over 90% of embryos suspected to have Down’s Syndrome are “terminated.”  This quality control process will   intensify as genetic interpretation accelerates. In a high tech version of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” genetic profiling enables parents to prenatally purge the defective.


 Incidentally, however, while eugenic by design, it turns out that IVF is dysgenic in practice.  As reported in newspapers nationwide on March 7, 2002, a study of over 70,000 newborns revealed that IVF offspring are over twice as likely to be born below the 5 pound, 8  ounce birth weight line, below which learning disabilities and other health problems are considerably more likely.  IVF offspring are also over twice as likely to have birth defects such as malfunctioning hearts, livers, kidneys and urogenital systems which are not prenatally diagnosed.  


Fourth, assisted conception is a high tech fix for the social problems of sexual promiscuity and postponed marriage.   STD or abortion scarring causes over 75% of infertility.  Most  remaining infertile couples have waited until long after their prime childbearing years to attempt conception.  Instead of  confronting our commitment-phobia and media-fed hyper selectivity of suitable mates, we ask technicians to bail us out, just as we do—with similarly dubious results-- with so many other social problems. 


Fifth, assisted conception separates sexuality from life creation. The manufacturing of life moves us one giant step closer to the Brave New World, in which we become more like serviceable machines, less like humans.  Further, if we can create children “with” someone without physical intimacy, does the basis for sexual exclusivity in marriage decline?   If we engage in sex principally because it feels good, does adultery become more thinkable and doable?   Is it a coincidence that divorce rates spiked when the sexuality was separated from reproduction and have remained high since?


Sixth, if such human-controlled reprotech as IVF is accepted, on what moral basis could society oppose other forms of reproductive choice, such as selecting a child’s sex, genetically designing the unborn or cloning? Moreover, from both a moral and technological standpoint, IVF facilitates cloning and genetic engineering. The methods and equipment used in IVF are the same as those used in cloning and GE efforts. Further, IVF provides an abundance of extra embryos, which technicians may use as a proving ground for cloning and GE attempts." 


On the surface, each of these processes might produce healthy looking offspring that satisfy parental desires.   But, then, wouldn’t those who built houses on Normandy Beach, at Wounded Knee or in Yosemite Valley enjoy the view?


Home | Music | Essays | Reviews | Links | Contact