Doesn’t this make anyone queasy?

In-vitro fertilization is a death-haunted work and has been since before its inception. Professor Robert Edwards said it took him twenty years to get the first embryo to “mature” outside the body. Twenty years of human experimentation resulting in how many deaths, just to get started?

With the number of deaths to his name you might think the Nobel committee would have given Robert Edwards the prize for peace rather than medicine. In topsy-turvy Nobel World, one makes as much sense as the other.

Proponents claim in-vitro fertilization has resulted in 4-million births to couples who might otherwise have been childless. What they leave off is the cost paid for those new lives, the staggering body count.

How many human beings had to die to get those 4-million babies? As many as 10-15 human embryos are created for every single baby that is born. Most are discarded, frozen, or killed for more experiments. This means as many as 40-million deaths were caused for those 4-million births.

Naturally, the Vatican has criticized the Nobel committee for giving an award to the man who invented this ghastly business. Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that without this treatment, “there would be no market for human eggs” and “there would not be a large number of freezers filled with embryos in the world.” He continued: “In the best cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel Prize winner is responsible.”

Catholic critics also point out the commoditization of human life inherent in IVF. The eugenic aspects are everywhere evident. Roberts himself says IVF has led to in-vitro diagnoses, diagnoses that have led to hundreds of thousands of pre-born deaths through abortion. And then there is the wonderful phrase of Senator Sam Brownback who says we are either persons or property. Clearly these IVF people are property, even the ones who won the doctor’s lottery and lived.

       In the beginning? TIME, July 31, 1978

The Church teaches that children can only come from sexual intercourse between married couples and that every act of intercourse must be both unitive and procreative. She requires this for the dignity of all involved, for the parents and the child who has a right to be born and to know his parents. There is a very good reason the Church teaches this. When you ignore God’s design, when you unravel that thread, enormities await you, most especially for the child. In the case of IVF, 40-million individuals cast onto the garbage heap.

As expected the Church has been attacked for her resistance to the IVF dogma and for criticizing the awarding of this prize to Edwards. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica said, “The devil is not behind Robert Edwards, as the Church seems to suspect, but a passion for science and an attempt to satisfy the desire that women have for maternity.” The leftist newspaper L’Unitá ran the ironic headline “Heretic” over a picture of Professor Edwards and two IVF babies.

It’s not like the Church does not care about fertility. Quite obviously she does. And there are many Church-approved clinics and procedures producing amazing and effective work in this area. But let’s consider this from a purely secular point of view. Allowing a doctor in the lab to choose the sperm that is to mate is at least against Darwin’s natural selection. I don’t know about you, but I would have wanted only the strongest and healthiest of my father’s sperm to reach my mother’s egg. Studies now show that IVF children are prone to abnormalities and disease at rates higher than children conceived and born the natural way.

And it is at least odd that, in death-drenched secular quarters, which constantly decry population and fertility growth and who practically worship contraception and abortion, continue to celebrate IVF. It is as if what they are really cheering is not the 4-million lives, but the 40-million embryos they got to experiment on, that and a stick in the eye to the Catholic Church.

There have been some measures seeking to regulate the wild wild west of IVF. While the IVF industry in the United States is totally unregulated, it is at least partially regulated in some European countries. There you can only create the number of embryos you intend on implanting, for instance. In Italy, IVF is only allowed for married couples. A few years ago there was a national referendum to make IVF available to everyone. It failed.

Finally there is the Yuck Factor, or there ought to be. Leon Kass has talked about the Yuck Factor and how it used to inform common sense thinking on these issues. It now seems to be lost. “My daddy masturbated into a cup.  And then a doctor, I don’t know his name, cut an egg out of my mom. He got the sperm to fertilize the egg, and then I was placed into a substance the doctor called broth, yes broth, and eventually I was placed into my mother. Ten of my brothers were frozen and were later cut up for their stem cells.”

Doesn’t all this make anyone queasy anymore?

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.