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Department of Icy Timelessness, Office of Unintended Consequence Management

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | May 14, 2010

I credit Rick Weiss for a precisely articulated characterization of an unforeseen difficulty in the deceptive promise of in vitro fertility treatment--one that delivers the shock of reality:

More than anything, experts said, the large number of embryos being preserved in icy timelessness is an indicator of the ambivalence many couples feel as they consider what to do with their hard-won but unneeded potential offspring. [emphasis mine]

That report was in 2003, seven years ago nearly to the day, and noted by Diogenes at the time.  

Infertility is a topic land-mined with personal emotion, and in vitro is a lucrative field for the providers. Until those who do not have a stake--either emotional or financial--in making test tube babies speak out about the moral consequences, the anguish will not go away, while the moral toxicity proliferates unchecked.

Yesterday’s Newsweek online edition posted a story about a woman who can’t find closure of any kind for her frozen embryos: her children. Misguidedly seeking to donate them to stem-cell research, Pamela Madsen found that, not to put too fine a point on it, the embryos are, for all intents, lost--in limbo--in icy timelessness.

And what are her options, really? Having undergone the process in the first place-- with what level of consent and information? with what unsubtle play on her amply funded pursuit of parenthood? --she cannot now bring these unborn offspring into the world, and the only other courses are simply immoral: to destroy them or to donate them to research. (The paperwork says they are back in their chilled vault, but who can tell whether that is true? Those who traffic in human life don’t automatically deserve our trust.)

And here is the crux of the matter.

The interaction of desire and gain is too close. On the one side is too much passion for fulfillment of a basic human hope; on the other, too much of a reward with little oversight, even if the process were licit, which it is not.

In the breach: the barely formed little ones, lost in their frozen limbo. Facilitating denial: the sheer passage of time, in which we all get familiar with and, frankly, desensitized to the evil.

Only the disinterested can stop this. That means you and me and our Church. In vitro fertilization is wrong, even if your cousin Amy is right--by which I mean that she is a human being, brought into the world in a wrong fashion but still worthy of the respect due to human dignity. It’s wrong to make the begetting of a child into a mechanical production. It’s wrong to think that if you can do something you may, because you want to so much.

Some time back, in this space, Antigone pointed out that most pastors seem to have no clue about what kinds of moral choices their congregants are faced with as a matter of course--choices that, a few generations ago, simply were not on the map. Priests need to get practical about guiding us.

No need to be graphic or indelicate. People have consciences. Simply stating what is right and what is wrong, and offering true moral help to the suffering, would go a long way toward positively affecting supply and demand in the marketplace of good and evil.



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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: sparch - May. 17, 2010 4:45 PM ET USA

    The intention for the the pope's prayers this month are for an end to human trafficking. I dare say this too is form of human trafficking that should be included in the intention of Benedict's prayers.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - May. 14, 2010 11:07 PM ET USA

    I hate to draw the comparison, but the business of mortuary affairs is rife with scandals of pretending to bury a person, while, in one instance, instead stacking the corpses in a garage, or in another, leaving them to the wolves.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - May. 14, 2010 9:33 PM ET USA

    Part of the problem with our contraceptive culture is the view of children as both a right and a commodity. One recently realized problem of a physical sort is the discovery that the IVF-conceived child is likely to carry on the infertility of his or her parent(s), creating even further demand for the artificially conceived 'commodity.' We must loudly proclaim that children are a good, a gift from God, but we have no right to children and no right to manipulate our bodies to procure them.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 14, 2010 7:51 PM ET USA

    Several years ago I wrote a piece for HPR called "The Multiple Injustices of IVF," and it's still right on target. This procedure needs to be illegal.

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