There are many childless couples out there. It is really rather sad when a couple desperately want to have a child but for biological reasons they are unable. Perhaps the problem has been an accident or physical injury, perhaps it is genetic. And in some cases the couple have simply left their run a little late because they were building a career. Then again they may have waited in order to become affluent enough to offer their children more than they had in their own childhood. No matter the reason, it is only natural for married couples to want to have children. Our heart goes out to them.
Science can help. There have been major advances in the technology available to assist reproduction. Science can often be the instrument God uses to give a childless couple the precious gift of life. But we have to be careful.
In order to understand our opposition to IVF it is important to know what the process entails.
The mother is typically placed on a hormone and supplement regime prior to the surgical harvesting of her eggs. The process can be painful and humiliating. The father supplies sperm, usually as a result of masturbation. Fertilisation occurs in a solution in a petri dish in a lab. Then some of the embryos are then implanted into the mother and the rest are either destroyed (they die) or they are frozen for possible use later.
If the embryos implanted in the mother ‘take’ they are left to grow for a few weeks or more and then a decision is made as to which will be allowed to grow to full term and which will be aborted. Often the one allowed to live is chosen on the basis of gender or desirable genetic features. Sometimes it is described as the most vigorous.
If the resulting pregnancy is not successful then the whole cycle starts again. Existing frozen embryos can be used or the mother can go through another harvesting procedure and the father can again provide sperm. Alternatively, a donor mother or father can be used, meaning that only one or the other of the married couple is a biological parent. At times, neither the mother nor the father is the biological parent of the resulting child.
The process has improved vastly since it was first pioneered back in 1978. However, it is far from perfect. There is no guarantee of success even after multiple – and expensive – procedures.
The Right to Life Association of Western Australia is opposed to Invitro (in glass) Fertilisation for three main reasons:
- Firstly, it separates the sexual union between the married couple from the procreation process. This reduces the gift of life to a mechanical process that can be measured in terms of success rates and it attempts to make man the architect of life.
- The second problem, and the greatest problem of all three is that as many as eight children die during each cycle of IVF – and it is not uncommon for couples to go through as many as four cycles. Some of these children simply die, others are deliberately aborted after implantation because they are less desirable or less vigorous than one or more of the other children.
- The third problem is that the process promotes – and attempts to normalise – abortion. It reduces the creation of new life to a mechanical process and suggests that anything less than the ‘perfect’ child at the perfect time can be destroyed out of convenience. It attempts to remove God from the equation.
- A relatively recent change to IVF philosophy is promoted by Swedish researchers who now recommend only one child be implanted back into the womb at a time, arguing that one embryo has about the same chance of coming to full pregnancy term as two or more. In both cases, the chance of success at that stage is about 40%. So, when the first one fails (6 times out of 10) a second fertilised egg, previously frozen, is transferred into the mother. The chances of success now lessen because frozen eggs have a lower success rate and a greater chance of abnormalities – which therefore leads doctors to recommend abortion. And to implanting a third embryo.
It could be argued that this is a ‘better’ method (although it is not favoured by those who want to choose the one that is considered genetically more desirable). However this method doesn’t reduce the number of children who die in the laboratory prior to implantation. Secondly it doesn’t take into account what happens to the frozen embryos – which are often destroyed later, or worse, used for experimentation. Thirdly, it doesn’t negate the fact that couples still often know that the process will result in the termination of their offspring before they start – yet do it anyway.
The Right to Life Association of WA is not opposed to IVF per se, (although the separation of sex and procreation is troubling, and the required masturbation is also perhaps unacceptable) – it is just the deliberate and expected termination of life that is the problem.
Yet we believe that God wants every married couple to have a family if they can. We think it is OK for a couple to use whatever medical help they can in order to increase their chances of conceiving naturally – as long as the process does not result in the termination of life and preferably if it doesn’t separate the sex act between married couples from the procreation process. There is a lot of help around these days – including, for example, NaPro Technology.
We also suggest that couples should not put off having children in favour of travel, qualifications, career or financial need. Whilst these sound like good ideas the problem is that, for both men and women, fertility decreases dramatically as we get older. And even when we remain fertile, the chances of a woman carrying a child to term reduces as she gets older, particularly if she is late being primagravidae, and the chance of abnormalities increases.
The Right to Life Association of WA encourages all married couples to recognise that it should be God who decides about our families, not us. Love your spouse, accept children willingly from God whenever He gives them to you, and know you are not in charge.
And we would encourage all families to consider adoption or fostering. There are so many beautiful children out there just waiting for a Mum and Dad!
But finally we believe that as Christians it is not our place to judge nor condemn anyone on this matter – but at the same time it is our role, our duty, to advise.