Last week, the New York Times ran an article about special “package deals” for in vitro fertilization in the business section, which of itself should raise a few eyebrows. Not only that, but the piece tackled thorny ethical questions head on without even the slightest trace of irony, which calls to mind the aphorism attributed to Winston Churchill, “Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.” As a result, this “Your Money” column manages to expose the depravity of our culture without even trying, and it is an ugly picture indeed. When human life is commoditized, we should expect no less.
The high success rate of this eugenics project is rigged from the start. The article mentions a couple who has compiled statistics on the procedure who have concluded that doctors tend to select people who may not even need help with fertility and then offer them money-back guarantees of success. With the prevalence of hormonal contraceptives and delayed marriage, procreation is difficult for many couples, but instead of advising women against hormonal contraceptives from the start–which have many negative side-effects besides infertility, the medical response to the failure of this blunt instrument is to over-correct with even more interventions, which can have ghastly consequences.
Multiple embryos are typically implanted simultaneously and with twins or triplets (or even quadruplets!) the risk of premature birth is increased, which is attended by all manner of complications, many of which are life-threatening or at the very least life-altering for the children. One of the most common causes of infertility is dysfunction of the sperm, so naturally the medical “treatment” is to perform a highly invasive procedure on the woman which places both her life and the life of her baby at risk. These risks are given only a cursory mention in the article though. Instead the piece notes, “The head-spinning questions that all of these matters of money, biology and feelings inspire make some doctors wary.” These gut-wrenching decisions of life and death are not guided by ethics or common sense, mind you, but feelings.
Doctors engaged in these practices are keen to capitalize on such feelings in order to increase their bottom line, because in order to take this sucker bet, couples must be made to feel that they are deficient and destined for failure. Instead of counseling patients to be, well, patient and let nature take its course, fertility doctors are looking for opportunities to make a quick buck with quick results. In fact, one of the couples profiled in the story actually did conceive their fourth child without any medical assistance–only for the mother to request a tubal ligation, which beggars belief and makes one question whether the whole costly ordeal was truly necessary at all.
The column repeatedly refers to copulation as the “old fashioned” way of doing things, as if to imply that the union of flesh between man and woman is an outdated and inefficient method of bringing children into the world–except, the fact is that sex is the most fine-tuned and well-honed bodily function in all of human experience. We didn’t get to have roughly seven billion people on the planet by a difficult or defective process. We have to be painstakingly taught by our parents how to eat and how to go to the bathroom, but the mechanism of procreation comes pretty naturally to everyone.
Of course, sex also doesn’t have any guarantees. Some people–many people–struggle with fertility. Even the arrogant and egotistical fertility doctors can only prod and poke at things they don’t fully understand. Ultimately, life is a miracle which is not meant to be in our control. We are not mushrooms or bacteria who can propagate clones of ourselves. It is our very nature to seek the complementarity of male and female in order to perpetuate life. In order to beget the next generation, we must become naked and vulnerable and surrender a part of ourselves to another person–and we need the practice, because the life that is created from this union will place even greater demands on us. Life is not something to be procured from an “à la carte” menu and sent back to the kitchen if it fails to meet our standards.
When I look around the dinner table at my children, I do not see some science experiment, I do not see some collection of molecules that were assembled in a chemical reaction to complete an equation, I do not see some project to be finished by a self-imposed deadline, and I certainly do not see a dollar amount gained or lost. Every child is a unique creature of God, filled with His heavenly joy and laughter. As mothers and fathers, we are charged with an awesome responsibility, but it is only bearable with the knowledge that all children–even those conceived by unnatural means–are ultimately God’s children, not ours. When we stray from the security of that knowledge, we bring upon ourselves a truly ponderous weight which we do not fully comprehend, and which will be our own destruction.