Sebastian's Point

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The Pro-Life Case for IVF Reporting Requirements

Joe Kral, M.A.  |  11 March 2020

It is becoming increasingly clear the in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry has been emboldened to start trying to pass various legislative initiatives across the country. One initiative in Colorado would mandate that insurance companies provide coverage for IVF treatments. The bill went as far as to cover surrogacy as well. Simply put, this bill would have created an incentive for more embryonic children to be created and destroyed.[i] One bill in Utah was even more nefarious. It openly promoted eugenics by allowing parents who suffered from a genetic disorder to receive help with IVF, with public funds, by creating embryos for the couple and then destroying those embryonic children that were diagnosed with the same genetic abnormality.[ii] Another bill in Florida would essentially codify that embryonic children created by IVF would be mere "property.”[iii]

 

Unfortunately, many of these bills tend to slip by unnoticed. It is even more unfortunate when legislators are alerted, and nothing happens to even try to stop the bill. The IVF bill in Florida passed unanimously in the Senate without one single objection by any pro-life Senator. This seems to indicate that either 1) many legislators are not fully informed of the pro-life issues surrounding IVF or 2) they may be afraid of the industry because they do not know what they need to know. It is now time to help educate both legislators and society in general by pushing legislation that would require IVF clinic reporting requirements. Why reporting requirements? Like abortion clinic requirements, numbers help tell the truth; the numbers help tell a story.

 

Firstly, it is important to begin to inform ourselves of the actual numbers of embryonic children that are created, destroyed, died of natural causes, died from the unfreezing process, and that are cryopreserved. No doubt, it is critical to understand these numbers since IVF clinics are dealing with human beings at their earliest stages of existence. There is much mystery surrounding the actual number of how many embryonic children die while in the hands of the IVF industry. There are no states that require reporting and a national reporting law that is very limited in its scope.[iv] Justice demands that proper numbers be acquired regarding the deaths of these vulnerable human persons. While many IVF clinics may view the human embryonic child as mere property and may not want to report on the cause of death of the embryonic child, the facts remain: 1) the human embryonic child is a new and unique member of the species homo sapiens, and 2) the embryonic child is alive, and that the embryonic child has a human nature, meaning it will always be human and will not develop into some other species or creature. Morally speaking, since the embryonic child has a human nature, it has certain rights attributed to it for just being human. In reality, if a state mandates that IVF clinics have to report on the causes of death regarding the embryonic child, then that helps show the humanity of the embryonic child. Certainly, pro-life advocates can agree that, at a bare minimum, this sort of law should be enacted because it helps show the humanity of the embryonic child on this basis alone.

 

Secondly, these numbers will help people see that the IVF industry is not nearly as efficient as they try to make themselves out to be. Real people die. These human persons may be in their beginning stages of life, but nonetheless, the numbers will show that actual human life is at real risk. This will help better inform legislators about the real need to pass laws that help protect these vulnerable children. The IVF industry has long been considered the "Wild West.”[v] By passing reporting requirements, it is likely that legislatures will be more inclined to help limit the various harms that are being perpetrated by the industry. This could lead to other legislative initiatives such as limiting the number of human eggs fertilized to drastically reduce the number of embryonic children destroyed or frozen.

 

Thirdly, this also presents an opportunity to properly define the term “embryo” under the law. At present, many in the IVF community simply obfuscate what the true definition of “embryo” is. Legislation requiring IVF clinics to report on the deaths of embryos will need to define the term in order to ensure that the clinics will not try to avoid the law by redefining what it is. For example, many IVF clinics use the scientifically inaccurate term “pre-embryo” to define a zygote, the earliest stage embryo, and blastocyst, the next stage embryo. This is not a term used in science to describe these early-stage embryos. Nevertheless, it does seem that the IVF industry uses this term to dehumanize the embryonic child so as not to alarm couples seeking to have a child who will then either cryopreserve the child or have them destroyed. The truth is the child will either be frozen or killed. It would certainly seem by dehumanizing the embryonic child, it allows the couple to psychologically handle what should be considered a human rights abuse. Regardless, from a moral standpoint, it is absolutely evil to abuse a human person in this way. Furthermore, by using terminology such as "pre-embryo," it confuses legislators who are not biologists by training. By clearly stating within the bill that at the moment of conception an embryo exists, it will help legislators understand that a unique human individual has come into being. A proper legal definition of the term will not allow these clinics to try and hide what actually happens within the clinic and will also have the effect of placing into law the proper scientific term that is used to describe the embryo at its most fundamental stages.

 

It is especially important for the states to learn what is happening with these embryonic children within the walls of IVF clinics. States certainly have the duty to monitor what is happening within its borders as to these most vulnerable of human beings. IVF, as a legal practice, is highly morally problematic, and it is prudent for legislators to see what is happening within their states concerning human life. It would seem likely that such legislation that requires clinics to report on the numbers of embryonic children who die for various reasons will likely lead to more legislation that will help protect these young ones. It is clear that embryonic children die during the unfreezing process.[vi] It is clear that some parents, who had too many embryonic children made, will have the “extras” destroyed or frozen because they do not want any more children.[vii] It is also clear that some clinics will destroy embryonic children because they do not meet certain genetic requirements; Utah legislators made that not only clear but evident. It is time to get the facts and help these vulnerable children. Human dignity and the right to life demand it.

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[i] See https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2020A/bills/2020a_1158_ren.pdf.

[ii] See https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/hbillint/HB0214S01.pdf.

[iii]. See https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/698/BillText/e1/PDF.

[iv] See https://www.cdc.gov/art/nass/policy.html. The Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act focuses on success rates of implantation rather than the deaths of the embryonic children. In fact, studies that discuss the rates of survival through the thawing process are not numbers that are provided to the US Center for Disease Control but are numbers based on a clinic or clinics that are involved with the study.

[v]. See https://www.inquirer.com/health/history-of-infertility-treatments-in-us-reproductive-medicine-ivf-20191113.html

[vi] See https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/fertility-preservation/embryo-freezing/.

[vii] It is estimated that there are over one million abandoned frozen embryonic children in US IVF clinics, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/features/nation-s-fertility-clinics-struggle-growing-number-abandoned-embryos-n1040806.

 

Joe Kral, M.A., President of the Society of St. Sebastian and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Bioethics in Law and Culture.