Judie Brown
Eight mistakes or eight babies? It depends on whom you ask!
By Judie Brown
February 4, 2009

The various statements swirling around Nadya Suleman's newborn octuplets, who were all born apparently healthy, are remarkable and at the same time frightening. USA Today reports, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-01-31-octuplets_N.htm?csp=34

    The woman who gave birth to octuplets this week conceived all 14 of her children through in vitro fertilization, is not married and has been obsessed with having children since she was a teenager, her mother said.

    Angela Suleman told the Associated Press she was not supportive when her daughter, Nadya Suleman, decided to have more embryos implanted last year.

Suleman used in vitro fertilization prior to this current birth, due to the fact that she had eight embryos left over from previous IVF treatments. Overall, she now has 14 children, with six between the ages of two and seven. It is reported that she originally wanted to go through the IVF process because she was not able to conceive naturally due to problems with her fallopian tubes. Suleman is not married, but apparently, her marital situation did not matter to her doctor.

But let me be clear. This single mother and the choices she made are not a topic for someone like me to discuss, since I cannot know her innermost motivations or her possible psychological predispositions. That subject, perhaps, is best left in the hands of God. What I can tell you is that her case is a very good example of the problematic nature of the entire practice of in vitro fertilization.

For more than 30 years, ever since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, IVF has been a growing practice. Prior to Brown's birth, researchers Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards had been working on developing the process, but had never had a successful "implantation" who lived. Then Louise happened. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,948239-1,00.html

Louise Brown was the first successful live birth from an IVF procedure. At the time of her birth, Steptoe and Edward expressed their hope that the practice would grow and, in fact, become commonplace, which is precisely what occurred in the intervening 30 years. However, the ethical problems surrounding this procedure have been the subject of discussion for just as many years. The summary of those problems, from a Catholic position, can be found in a 1983 tract by Professor Charles Rice, The Pro-Life Movement: A Spiritual Perspective: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/CF2.TXT

    IN VITRO FERTILIZATION. Contraception is the taking of the unitive without the procreative. In vitro fertilization is the reverse. The teaching Church has warned against this as a perversion. The process involves the fertilization of several eggs; only the best ones are implanted in the womb and the rest are flushed down the drain. Dr. Patrick Steptoe, one of the originators of the technique, recently denied that he was destroying human lives because, in his opinion, only "a potential life has been started when an egg is fertilized. The mortal part of life has been joined with the immortal part: by that I mean the genetic material. We are all merely transient carriers of our genes, I'm afraid; it is our genes that are immortal, definitely." We are already seeing further refinements of the in vitro technique, including serious proposals that spare embryos be frozen and then defrosted and given, or sold, to prospective "mothers," that the embryos be used for experiments or that they be used for spare parts for persons in need of new organs.

Since Professor Rice wrote those profound words, the situation has grown even more out of control. Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the practice is not that it occurs, which is bad enough, but that those who are involved in providing the technology believe they have the power and authority to control which of the children live, which die and exactly how many children a given mother or mother and father should have. At least that's the theory.

In a report entitled "How the heartwarming tale of the U.S. octuplets became a seedy story of self-indulgence," a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, wrote about Suleman, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1133686/How-heartwarming-tale-U-S-octuplets-seedy-story-self-indulgence.html?ITO=1490 "Her family says her desire for so many children may even be the result of mental illness. Any one of these factors would surely have denied Miss Suleman fertility treatment, on ethical grounds, if not those of common sense."

In a second report on the aftermath these babies' birth, the views of those who are alarmed by this latest news are perfect examples of why IVF should never be practiced. One specialist discussed his views with the L.A. Daily News: http://www.dailynews.com/ci_11594437?source=rss_viewed

    In 30 years of practice, "I have never provided fertility treatment to a woman with six children," or ever heard of a similar case, said [Dr. David] Adamson, director of Fertility Physicians of Northern California.

    Women seeking fertility treatment are routinely asked to give a detailed history of prior pregnancies and births, and "it's a very realistic question to ask about someone who has six children: How does this fit into the concept of requiring fertility treatment?" Adamson said.

In other words, the doctor determines whether or not the couple or, in Suleman's case, the mother, really deserves or needs to have more children. I thought that was a decision that should be left to God.

In a second report on the dismay being verbalized by those in the IVF business, we read this: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE50U09O20090131?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

    A single, healthy baby is the ideal strived for by fertility specialists, said Dr. David Adamson, a fertility specialist and past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

    Even twins can be fraught with complications for mother and babies, but three or more simultaneous births "are considered definitely an undesired outcome," he said.

    The arrival of the octuplets, nine weeks premature, was celebrated as a medical success by doctors who handled their birth, but "only from the standpoint of maximizing delivery," said Dr. Mousa Shamonki, director of assisted reproduction at UCLA's medical school.

    "Well over 90 or 95 percent of these situations will result in a catastrophic event, namely the loss of many, if not all, the fetuses, and a high risk to the mom," he said. "It's a scenario that really should never happen."

I'm not picking on Adamson, but the comments he and others have made about this case actually highlight the grave moral reasons why the Catholic Church has so consistently identified the practice of IVF as gravely evil. http://catholicinsight.com/online/church/vatican/article_475.shtml The babies are not evil; the practice is simply unacceptable, according to Catholic medical ethics. As a matter of fact, each of those babies are blessings; they are gifts from God — not products from an assembly line, as some would suggest.

Those who have offered opinions on this case from the technological side, however, are the very same people who believe in "pre-implantation genetic diagnosis" http://www.all.org/newsroom_judieblog.php?id=1445 prior to implantation and, if need be, selective reduction after the IVF babies are implanted.

IVF has also become a marketing gimmick that attracts women like Suleman. She is not the first single woman who did not want to marry, but did want to bear a child and turned to technology to have her way.

I am certainly not defending Ms. Suleman's choices, nor am I condemning her for not waiting until marriage to have a family. What I am pointing out is that, in this age of treating babies like products that can be quality-controlled or discarded if they are inconvenient to the parents, one dare not point a finger at a mother in Suleman's situation without pointing even more at the incredibly abhorrent practices made available to her in the first place.

Writer Mark Oshinskie astutely observed, http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/osh/osh_07pandorababy.html

    From abortion to IVF to sex selection to mail order sperm and eggs, to genetic screening, life creation and destruction have become consumer-sovereign industries. Instead of being seen as divine or natural wonders, children have increasingly become possessions, on display, whose lives are medically mediated and scheduled and managed to suit parents' desires, even from conception and delivery. Although it is difficult to operationalize the impact of reproductive capitalism and the ascendancy of parental satisfaction, these developments will lessen human solidarity far more profoundly than TV, cars and consumerism have.

Sad, is it not, that technology has arrived at a place where human persons, according to some, are nothing more than another category of man-made goods?

© Judie Brown


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Judie Brown

Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League, the nation's largest grassroots pro-life educational organization... (more)


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