So far we have covered some basic background on reproductive technologies, surrogacy, and donor eggs/sperm. I believe that there are serious ethical concerns with each of these technologies, and my recommendation to anyone who embraces pro-life ideology would be to avoid them.
The second-to-last topic in this series is in vitro fertilization. This is typically shortened to "IVF." So, what is IVF? "In vitro" means "outside the body" and fertilization is the creation of a brand new human being. So, IVF is the creation of a brand new human being outside of the female body. Typically, parents that decide to try IVF have tried many other medications and therapies with no success. They desperately want a child, and science offers them hope.
Now realize that I am not saying that scientists are becoming God. They can't create life, only God can do that. What they can do is extract the sperm and the egg from a man and a woman and put them together to create a new human being. Once the embryo "takes" it can be implanted inside the mother and will hopefully attach and grow properly.
For the purposes of this post, let's assume that the mother (that is, the woman providing the egg) is planning to carry the child to term and parent him/her, and that the man providing the sperm is planning to walk through the pregnancy with the mother and parent the child in a loving and monogamous marriage. Since we have already covered the many ethical issues with surrogacy and donor material, this seems like a good place to start.
Let's take a moment and reflect on when human life begins. While many pro-choice people claim this is a thorny question that is impossible to answer, the fact of the matter is that life begins at conception. I'm not a scientist and I have very little interest in researching and explaining cell fusion and other science-y things, so go google it. You'll be fine. Maybe someday I will blog more extensively about why I believe life begins at conception, but today is not that day (neither is tomorrow, so simmer down).
If we believe, and I think most pro-life people do, that life begins at conception then we must be troubled by the fact that during the IVF process a very small, very fragile, person is created. This person can't speak for themselves, can't breathe, can't defend themselves, and can't live on their own. Arguably, these tiny embryos are the most vulnerable people on the planet.
Also, if we believe that life begins at conception, we must take a very hard look at any reproductive technology that manages or handles a zygote (fertilized egg) outside the human body. Because, that zygote is no longer just an egg or some sperm, a zygote is a very small human person. Some faith traditions also object to taking sperm outside of the human body (as far as I know there is no reason to extract eggs from a woman other than to begin the IVF process) but my belief is that the true issues don't come in until we're handling a zygote - a human.
I believe we all need to do the research and determine where we think the line is. For me, the bright ethical line with reproductive technology is drawn at any action that endangers or harms a human being. Since I believe that human life begins at conception, then any action that harms or endangers a zygote is unacceptable.
Let's take a closer look at IVF.
To start the process the egg and sperm need to be extracted from the human body. As discussed in the last post, this is somewhat dangerous for the mother but not as big of a deal for the father. When donating eggs, the goal is to extract as many as possible. This is still true for women who are hoping to keep their eggs, but there is not as much pressure on the mother. After the eggs have been extracted they are placed in a Petri dish and then exposed to the father's sperm.
Honestly, that kind of surprised me, I thought it was more scientific than just sticking them together. But, there you are.
The next day they're checked to see if fertilization happened. If it did, they're left alone until they start to divide. This is when they become embryos (a developmental term, not meant to dehumanize). If you believe that life begins at conception we're now dealing with very small humans.
After several days, one or more embryos are placed inside the mother in hopes that they will implant and grow. Any leftover embryos are destroyed or stored (cryopreservation is used, in layman's terms they are frozen) in case they are wanted in the future. The embryologists will discard any embryos that aren't considered viable.
I'm referencing a document from the Cleveland Clinic but my research shows that this is very similar to the procedures at other clinics. I am sure there are differences depending on where you go, but the overall process seems to be pretty standard.
Embryos can be screened very early on for genetic disorders or unwanted characteristics. Any embryo possessing a disorder (such as Down Syndrome) can be discarded in favor of a typical (often referred to as "normal") embryo.
There are a lot of problems here, let's look at them one at a ti