Personhood Amendment In Mississippi Runs Afoul of "In Vitro" Fertilization Enthusiasts. A Consideration of the Facts of IVF and of the Sinful Human Tendency to Want What We Want, No Matter Who Gets Hurt.

In Mississippi, Tuesday (November 8 ), citizens will be asked to vote on the Personhood Amendment, declaring the fertilized embryo a legal person. The amendment is intended to legally prevent abortions.  However a group called Resolve –  National Fertility Association has publicized concerns that the bill could render In Vitro Fertilization illegal or at least open to legal challenge. Personhood USA, a group supportive of the bill claims that In Vitro procedures will not be threatened. The video below features a discussion from both points of view.

The Personhood Amendment would be a wonderful step forward in walking back Roe v. Wade. It will surely face an uphill battle with legal challenges that will likely land it in the Supreme Court of the United States.  Nevertheless the initiative is bold and gives me great hope. Thus it is a great sadness to hear the latest protests that put passage of the Amendment at risk.

I am neither a political pundit nor a lawyer. But what I am is a concerned believer in God who deeply regrets the mess we have gotten ourselves into by our many attempts to play God.

We clearly play God by sentencing innocent life to death by abortion. This is life God has created (cf. Jer 1:4; Psalm 139 ) In effect we snatch the life from God’s creative hands and say, “This shall not be.”

But we also play God by insisting that infertile couples have a right to conceive and bear children, when nature and nature’s God have said no. With in vitro fertilization we go beyond assisting fertility and then depending on the marriage act. Rather we sideline the God given manner for conception and turn it into a technology in a petri dish. This too is a way of telling God “This shall not be” in reference to infertility and normal conception.

There are many problems with In Vitro fertilization that has caused the Catholic Church to forbid it.

  1. Life as Consumer Product – In IVF, a fertilizable ovum is removed from a woman’s ovary and put in a petri dish (the Latin for dish is vitrum) to which a few concentrated drops of sperm are added. This removes human conception from the marriage act, its sacred and proper place, where God acts to bestow life.  IVF puts it in the laboratory where man controls the process and conception is treated as a technology and consumer product, rather than as part of a mystery of fruitful love caught up in the marriage embrace and the love God.
  2. No person and no couple has a right to a child. A child is a person with rights; he or she is not merely an object, a possession, or a technological product.
  3. God is Wrong! From a faith perspective, IVF simply refuses God’s “failure” to act in accord with the wishes of the parents, and removes the decision from God. God may be teaching something to the couple due to their infertility. Perhaps he wants them to adopt, perhaps he has a special work or cause he wants them to be devoted to. But IVF suspends such discernment, and forces the solution.
  4. There is a strong bias today toward only caring about what is best for adults. This is widespread in our culture. Hence, if adults are unhappy they can divorce, not matter what this does to children, the children have no legal voice or say in the matter. Further, if a child comes at an unexpected or inopportune time, many just abort. Again, it is the adults who matter. In IVF there is also some of this thinking since what seems to matter most is that the adults want a baby. Never mind what IVF may do to how we think of life, as a technology to be exercised at our whim, rather than a sacred mystery. Never mind that imperfect embryos are discarded or frozen. Never mind that many IVF procedures selectively abort later. Never mind that IVF children are more often born prematurely, or suffer higher rates of birth defects. What matters is what adults want and demand.
  5. Discarding Embryos – As already stated, it is a usual practice that more eggs are fertilized than the woman will need. This is because not all embryos survive. Thus, more than one egg, usually several or numerous eggs, are fertilized. If “too many” embryos survive the rest are either discarded (i.e. killed), frozen or mined for stem cells (i.e. killed).
  6. For reasons such as these, the Church considers IVF to be gravely sinful.
  8. There are certain procedures allowable to Catholics which enhance fertility but do not remove or replace the marriage act. But IVF is far beyond what is approved for the reasons stated.

So here we are with another cultural show-down. Resolve –  National Fertility Association is not a pro-abortion group as far as I can tell. In fact I would imagine that many, if not most, of its members would describe themselves as pro-life. But IVF and abortion have this in common: Playing God and saying that I have a right over life, that I call the shots.

Further, while many of its members and “consumers” of IVF services may choose not to think so, discarding of embryos is killing, is aborting. Freezing them is a cruel delay and a further indignity. Imagine keeping children on ice until their arrival is more convenient. And what if they never become convenient? The big chill continues until they become stale (i.e. dead).

Disclaimer – Now, there are likely many well-intentioned couples who may never have thought through all this, or have been misguided, or are just so desperate for a child that they’ll do almost anything. But in the end, IVF is problematic and morally wrong for the reasons stated.

We live in times where too many think that they can just have what they want. Many think that, if we can do something, we should be free to do something. But there are other things at stake than just what people want. There is reverence for the sacred mystery of life, there is concern for the common good, there is what actually happens to imperfect or superfluous embryos.

And in Mississippi there is a good bill that is now threatened by IVF enthusiasts whose basic premise seems often to be that they should be able to have what they want, no matter side effects. And for Resolve –  National Fertility Association it is clear that IVF is more important to them even than working to end abortion. The threat to IVF procedures, even if legally remote, is so grave to them, that they are willing to see abortions continue by the millions, if only they can still have IVF. It would seem more of the same from our culture that wants what it wants no matter the cost.  What a mess.

Here’s the video of the Fox news debate. Sorry for the Ad if it pops up.