Amanda Brennan, Intern
For many couples today, having children has become an ART, or an act of Artificial Reproductive Technology. This method, which contributes to more than 1 percent of all infant births, involves the combining of egg and sperm outside the body through various procedures. In most cases a woman’s eggs are retrieved surgically after superovulation, and a man’s sperm is collected via masturbation or a medical procedure. The two are then combined in a petri dish to form new life. From this moment on, the fate of the embryos is unclear. The couple has several options: implant into the biological mother, implant into a surrogate, donate to another couple, dispose of, donate to research, or freeze.
Cryopreservation, or the freezing of excess embryos, is a common practice at virtually all of the 443 identified fertility clinics throughout the United States. Presently, it is believed that over 400,000 human lives are suspended in “concentration cans” of liquid nitrogen. In all the hype of solving infertility and creating genetically enhanced children, life is being destroyed (an estimated 6½ embryos are lost for every live birth in IVF) and embryos are being imprisoned in a “man-made limbo.” The evils of concentration camps went unnoticed until after the damage was done in WWII, and the same may be true for the injustice of cryopreservation that is occurring throughout the world today. The question of what to do with embryos that are abandoned or unwanted has gone unanswered in the U.S., but in some European countries those unclaimed embryos are often cleaned out and destroyed to make room for newer ones coming in. Little thought has been given to the consequences of ART methods on future society as a whole, most importantly on the family.
Through procedures such as IVF the fundamental norm of creation is manipulated. No longer do people beget children, instead they manufacture them, casting the sexual act between a man and a woman aside. The separation between procreative and recreational sex continues. As ART procedures grow in popularity more and more children will be detached from their biological parents. Originally, only homologous artificial fertilization was practiced, but now heterologous artificial fertilization is acceptable. This opens the door for single parenthood, homosexual parenthood, etc., in the meantime gradually devaluing the institution of marriage. For instance, a child could be created from the egg and sperm of two strangers, gestated by another woman, and then raised by two completely different people. Up to five individuals can contribute to the creation and upbringing of a child, not to mention the third-party intervention of scientists and medical professionals throughout the process. As MARRI research points out, children thrive when they grow up in an intact married family. In 2009, 45.8 percent of children experienced family intactness. Some ART procedures provide a child with a stable home between a married man and woman, but many others provide the opportunity to redefine marriage and childbearing unlike ever before.
As science continues to progress, we must not forget the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person's a person, no matter how small” (Horton Hears a Who). Humans must evaluate the repercussions of their actions before creating injustices such as frozen embryos. There are ways to treat infertility that respect the dignity of the human person, that value life at even its smallest stages, and that safeguard marriage and the sexual act. It must not be forgotten that children have a fundamental, inalienable right to be born and raised in an intact family, not stored in a refrigerator.