The IVF Debate

Article by Carmen B.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most popular assisted reproductive technologies today. During each IVF cycle, eggs are extracted from a woman and sperm are retrieved from a man. The egg and sperm are combined in a lab, creating an embryo, that is then implanted in the uterus. It allows individuals who may otherwise be infertile to conceive. Because IVF is an extremely costly procedure, ranging on average between $10,000 and $20,000 per cycle, couples often produce more embryos than they plan to implant. 15 eggs are usually extracted and fertilized in one cycle. This mitigates the risk of having to pay for another full cycle if the first embryos don't implant or if the mother miscarries.

IVF is undeniably linked to abortion and the lies that we have been sold concerning when life begins. Even the language that I use in this article points to how little respect we have for unborn humans. Embryos should not be “used,” “unused,” or “leftover.” Each and every single one of those embryos is an entirely unique human being with an irreplicable set of DNA. We know that human life begins at conception. (For more information: "Biologists' Consensus on 'When Life Begins'") However, the IVF industry has turned embryos into nothing more than pricey commodities, often making more than needed, “just in case.” So what happens when a couple decides that they are definitely done having kids, but they still have leftover embryos? What happens to the human beings that were paid for and created but are no longer wanted?

There are three options for couples who choose to not use all of their embryos: destroy, preserve, and donate. Let’s break all of these down.

Destroying embryos is morally wrong and is, in fact, akin to having an abortion. If we know that human life begins at conception and that ending human life is wrong, then there is no way to justify the destruction of embryos, whether at an abortion clinic or at a fertility clinic.

The second option is to freeze the embryos. However, this is not a solution, but merely a way to put off the problem. Couples can pay around $1000 to have their embryos preserved for another year, and, rather than making a final decision, many choose to keep paying this fee indefinitely. The exact number of frozen embryos in existence is not known, but a New York Times article provides one estimate of 600,000. Some embryos have been frozen for decades. The annual letter that couples receive asking whether they want to keep freezing their embryos can be so difficult to face that some choose to abandon their embryos in order to avoid the problem completely. There is also no definitive data on how many embryos have been abandoned, but the rate of abandonment is estimated to be between 1% and 24%. Couples can abandon their embryos by moving or changing their contact information and failing to update their records. As a result, the fertility clinic has no way to reach them. This is becoming a significant issue in the United States.

Couples who do not want to destroy their embryos may choose to donate them. Embryos can be donated to science or to another couple who wishes to have children. Donating embryos to science is equally, if not more, unacceptable than destroying them. Embryos that are donated to science are experimented on before ultimately being destroyed. Human beings are not involuntary test subjects or lab rats, no matter how small or undeveloped they may be. Even if good things have come from research involving embryos, this research is morally despicable, and no more embryos should be donated for its sake.

The last option is, in fact, the only morally acceptable one: donate the embryos to another individual or couple who wishes to adopt them and raise them. While this solution is the only one that does not result in the intentional killing of a person, few individuals are willing to donate their embryos. Knowing that one has biological children who will be raised by someone else can be difficult to reconcile, which is also a reason why some women choose abortion instead of adoption. Nevertheless, even if all couples who choose IVF were willing to donate their extra embryos instead of destroying them, it seems that the adoption demand is not yet high enough to accommodate all the extra embryos. Only 2,000 embryos were adopted in 2016, but this rate is quickly growing as more people learn about the importance of embryo adoption.

Apart from causing many individuals to use up their life savings on a procedure with a very high rate of failure, IVF has resulted in the intentional destruction of thousands of human beings. In order to stop the problem from getting worse, regulations must be put in place regarding the number of embryos that can be created. Creating many excess embryos “just in case,” or inserting numerous embryos into the wombs of women, only to then abort some if too many implant, is a deep offense to human life. We must treat these embryos as what they are: human beings.

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