Human Life, Bought and Sold

A common goal found within the pro-life community is to achieve a greater respect for the dignity of human life from conception until natural death. But as the practice of in vitro fertilization (IVF) grows more popular, human life is increasingly being treated as a commodity to be purchased and discarded at will.

While many pro-lifers find IVF itself to be offensive to human dignity, the UK’s Daily Mail recently reported that dozens of women who chose to conceive through IVF ended up changing their minds about being mothers, and aborted their babies.

Statistics from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) revealed that on average 80 abortions are carried out in England and Wales each year following IVF treatments. In 2007, the highest annual total reported, the figure was 97 abortions.

“I had no idea there were so many post-IVF abortions – and each one is a tragedy,” said Bill Ledger, a fertility doctor and member of the HFEA. “These women can’t be surprised to be pregnant. You can’t have an IVF pregnancy by accident.”

Don’t you just want to ask Dr. Ledger why, exactly each one is a tragedy? It is the nature of IVF treatments that embryonic human beings die either by design or as an entirely predictable consequence of the treatment itself. Is this only a tragedy when the child dies because his mother changed her mind?

The growing awareness of problems with IVF is worldwide. In Hong Kong, a high-profile fertility clinic admitted this week that it botched two IVF treatments by implanting the wrong embryos – leading to the death of those fragile lives.

According to BBC News, “[T]he embryos were taken out and discarded.”

The women who were affected by the clinic’s mistake reportedly received counseling and financial compensation. One wonders how much of the counseling had to do with the shock of not receiving what they paid for, and how much had to do with the loss of those human lives.

Women spend thousands of dollars for IVF treatments in order to conceive a child. And with IVF, women have the opportunity to conceive based on personal gender preference as well. One UK woman recently took out a loan on her home to spend $24,000 to have a female child through IVF. Heather, the woman, and her husband Paul flew to California for the gender selective IVF procedure.

“Out of eleven eggs collected six developed into viable embryos. Of these six, only two were female,” the Daily Mail reported. “The female embryos were implanted into Heather’s womb – with the hope they would develop into a baby daughter.”

There is no word in the article on the fate of the four male “viable embryos.” Most likely, they were discarded as “waste.”

In the UK alone, over one million human embryos (human lives) have been discarded as IVF “waste” in the past 20 years. Combine that number with the approximately 3.3 million abortions in the UK over the same period of time, and it is roughly the equivalent of eradicating the entire population of Croatia.

As St. Pope John Paul II warned in Evangelium vitae, “In today’s cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death.”

While those who procure IVF treatments may have good intentions, the reality is that the procedure requires the killing of millions of human lives and seriously degrades the value of human life, even when it is “successful” in bringing about the birth of a child.

In Evangelium vitae, the Holy Father also wrote, “Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life.” Even if that person is an embryo.

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