January 20, 2015

The Culture of Death & Infertility

This week is the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that originally made abortion legal in the US.  There are many pro-life events going on around the country, which has gotten me thinking that I'd like to add my two cents.  You might ask, what does abortion have to do with infertility?  A little more than you might think at first, both directly, and in the broader cultural sense.

I first got thinking about all of this after a couple conversations with some coworkers last week.  It started with some coworkers asking me more about my medical treatment.  I usually give people at work a heads up about my being on meds that make me crazy (its a small office of 5 people, I feel like they deserve a warning, lol).  Other than that though, I usually don't talk in much detail about my treatment.  So, today a couple of them started asking me about my treatments, and PCOS, and all of  that fun stuff.

One of them asked me (again) why I won't just use IVF.  Before, I've just given her a short answer, that its against my morals.  In that conversation (possibly because the meds are kicking in and I'm losing my filter) I answered a little differently. I told her I didn't want to be involved in that killing.  She asked me what killing?  And I explained to her how first a whole bunch of embryos are created, who are then tested, and then the genetically "undesirable" embryos are "discarded".  Then some are selected to attempt to implant, and the rest are either frozen, or "discarded" as well.  Some may implant, some may not. If too many implant, the "excess" embryos are "selectively terminated."  All that nice and clean language to cover up the reality of all the killing.  That is a business I don't want to be involved in.  Its so sad, so heartbreaking to me.

One of the hardest parts of it for me to understand is that, I would guess in the majority of IVF situations, its people dealing with infertility that are undergoing these procedures.  People who have likely struggled for years hoping for a child, for a new life.  Then, once they are given those lives, they just discard so many of them?  Those of us with infertility should be the most sensitive to, and the most protective of life.  We shouldn't be leading to the senseless destruction of it.  I guess you could argue that there are different beliefs as to when life begins, or that people aren't educated, or instructed.  Maybe in some cases there is true ignorance?  Or  maybe its just the shiny promises of IVF, the promise of a perfect healthy child, after all the struggling, they just close their eyes and don't think of the actions required to reach that end? I don't know. But I think those mindsets are what led to the situation in the next conversation.

My coworker went on to tell me an awful story about some people she knows.  An infertile couple went to great lengths to secure a surrogate, an then have the surrogate become pregnant with their child. Around 36 weeks they discovered that something might be wrong with the baby, not even full confirmation that something was, but just that something might.  The couple had the child surrendered at the hospital when he or she was born.  They didn't want him or her solely because of the possibility of something was wrong, and so they abandoned the poor child.  Not that I believe there is any difference between the life of an embryo and a baby that has been born, but I mean, regardless of any one's religious, moral, political, or any other views, there is no question to the life of a child at 36 weeks, or that has been born.  There is no possible shade of gray there.  And yet, the same people who went to such great lengths to bring this life into being, had the child abandoned, without even so much arranging for his or her medical care.  It breaks my heart.  And it broke my heart that my coworker didn't think to tell me about this situation while it was occurring, I so would've wanted to help that baby if I could have. And I know this is not a singular occurrence, we've all heard similar stories in the news, like the Australian couple who left a twin with down syndrome in Taiwan with the surrogate, while taking the "healthy" twin home.  How devastating.

When I started writing this post, I really couldn't understand how our culture has created an environment where these things are considered okay.  I couldn't understand how we, as a culture, could really be that self-serving and heartless?

But it dawned on me, exactly where it comes from. It comes from the same root of abortion, the belief that we, humans, have the ability to decide what is life and what isn't.  That we have the right to decide and choose to create or end lives that we think we do or do not deserve, when they are or aren't convenient for us.  The very view that someone "deserves" to have a child, a perfect child, that leads to IVF, is the same view that leads to the abandoning a child that you brought into existence because you think he or she is not perfect enough.  When children are viewed as commodities rather than the gifts that they are, it is a dangerous, slippery slope. (Which has of course been said by the church many times, much more eloquently than I am saying here, such as in the Catechism 2372-2393, and in Donum Vitae).

I think those of us with infertility have the ability to make a difference.  We are faced with so much darkness, so much pain.  We can choose to let it drag us down below our own dignity, and to deny the dignity, and right to exist, of other human beings.  Or we have the chance to witness to the true dignity and preciousness of life, to treat it with the care and reverence it deserves.

What that means to each couple facing infertility might be different.  Whether it means to seek out treatment that does not violate other humans, to adopt or foster, to accept the journey of infertility wherever it might lead, that is up to them to discern. What it does not mean is to be complicit in the devaluation and destruction of life.

For my part, I'm so glad there is NaPro.  I'm so glad I have options that don't cross these moral boundaries, and for doctors that don't push me to make such decisions.  I only wish more people knew about it.  Maybe if they did, less people would feel backed into choices that require such disregard for the very thing they are trying to create.  All I know is that I'm trying to do my part, one person (and post) at a time.


  1. Loved this post. I agree that the infertile women can make a powerful witness to faith by the options we choose in our journey. It's not easy sometimes, but I agree completely that I can't be a part of all the killing. I just can't.

    Also wanted to say how much I love the redesign! :)

    1. Glad to know I'm not alone on this thought. Thank you!

  2. Well said! I think that there are a lot of unintended consequences of the culture of death, and this is certainly one of them. It also makes me really sad when someone who doesn't understand the personhood of a child at the earliest stages of life has a miscarriage. Some of them are so sad, but they try to get over it so quickly, because "it happens" and that's the way things are and they don't understand that the reason they are so sad is that they are grieving a person, and not just a possibility.

    1. That's a good point. The age and size of the child lost doesn't matter, and people should, and should be allowed to, grieve them.