There’s an old saying in Latin: Omni trinum perfectum (all things are perfect in threes). It is a saying that emerges from the Trinitarian Theology but is meant somewhat playfully.
The other day, however, something was announced that definitely is not perfect in threes. A frightening piece in the BBC News describes three where there should be two, or, two’s company but three’s an unnatural crowd. Here are some excerpts from the original article along with my comments in plain red text. The full article is available here: Three’s a Crowd!
A public review into the three person IVF technique has been broadly supportive, says the Department of Health. In other words, this technique involves taking genetic material from one sperm and TWO eggs. That equals three parents in case you hadn’t noticed.
The move would be restricted to mitochondrial disease, affecting one in 6,500 UK babies born each year. Now you know that what the radicals propose as a rare and unique procedure is going to be available to anyone who wants it for any reason within a few short years. Some of us are old enough to remember that abortion was initially proposed only for those rare cases in which the life of the mother was threatened. But that was just a placeholder in order to get the approval. Approval having been granted, now here comes everybody! And those who sought to keep the awful procedure safe, legal, and rare, are now proposing it as a kind of sacrament of the women’s movement to which everyone should have access. So let these latest “safe, legal, and rare” proponents be aware that many of us don’t believe their “thoughtful limitations” approach.
[Mitochondrial Disease] may lead to muscle weakness, blindness, and heart failure. Using the parents’ sperm and eggs plus an additional egg from a donor woman should prevent such conditions, say scientists at Newcastle University. And here is the proverbial sheep’s clothing. I suppose that all of us would like to prevent every possible negative outcome in life. And all these nice people want to do is to prevent bad things from happening to other nice people. All this is praiseworthy but it does try to make a good thing out of tampering with DNA and turning human life into a technology or a “deliverable.” There are many unintended consequences that go along with such approaches. For example, how will this further affect the way we regard the disabled? As it is, up to 90% of babies with poor prenatal diagnoses are aborted. So beware—all of our “niceness” about trying to make life more pleasant and perfect has created pressure to abort what is regarded as imperfect life if we can’t “fix it.” It is hard not to describe the massive number of abortions of disabled children as a bloodbath and a kind of genocide. It all parades around under the pleasant guise of trying to alleviate suffering, but at the end of the day our insistence on perfect outcomes take us to some pretty dark places.
Any children born using the procedure would not be able to find out the identity of the mitochondrial donor. Why not? Whom are the proponents trying to protect and why?
Opponents say it is unethical and could set the UK on a “slippery slope” to designer babies … Dr. David King, director of Human Genetics Alert said: “Looking back 15 years from now in the midst of a designer baby marketplace, people will see this as the moment when the crucial ethical line was crossed. Exactly!
Well, there you have it. Heather has three parents. Why should this be opposed? For many of the same reasons we must oppose in vitro fertilization. (Since most of you, my readers, are Catholic, I put forward here a religiously based argument. I will leave arguments based on natural law to others.) We have gotten into the very bad habit of trying to play God when it comes to human life. Clearly the most egregious example of this is abortion. There, we play God by sentencing innocent life to death. This is life that 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 marital 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 have caused the Catholic Church to forbid it.
- Life as a 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 separates human conception from the marital act, its sacred and proper place, where God acts to bestow life. IVF places conception in the laboratory, where man controls the process, treating it as a technology and as a consumer product rather than as part of a mystery of fruitful love caught up in the marital embrace and the love God.
- 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.
- God is Wrong! From a faith perspective, IVF refuses to accept God’s “failure” to act in accord with the wishes of the couple to conceive and so tries to remove Him from the decision. God may be teaching something to them through their infertility. Perhaps He wants them to adopt; perhaps He has special work for them to do or a cause to which He wants them to be devoted. But IVF suspends such discernment and forces the solution.
- There is a strong bias today toward caring only about what is best for adults. This is widespread in our culture. If adults are unhappy they can divorce regardless of what this does to children, who 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 that IVF may encourage us to think of life as a technology to be exercised at our whim rather than as a sacred mystery. Never mind that imperfect embryos are discarded or frozen. Never mind that many IVF procedures lead to selectively aborting later on. Never mind that IVF children are more often born prematurely and suffer higher rates of birth defects. What matters is what adults want and demand.
- Fix the disabled … or else! – In recent years a kind of genocide has been occurring against the disabled. Because we can often predict deformities and hardships and because we “can” abort them, we do—in huge numbers. The attitude is that imperfect or disabled life must go. Today, as many as 90% of babies with a poor prenatal diagnosis are aborted. Some might argue that this procedure will help prevent disabled or imperfect babies. But what we are really doing is insisting on our “right” to be without imperfect babies. And we seem to be willing to go to any lengths (including three parents) to achieve it. Pretty soon, having babies outside “the factory” will be frowned upon and insurance policies will refuse to care for handicapped children born in the “traditional” way. More abortions, more bloodshed is sure to follow our insistence on perfect babies.
- Discarding Embryos – As already stated, it is standard practice to fertilize more eggs than are needed. This is because not all embryos survive. If “too many” embryos survive, the rest are either discarded (i.e., killed), mined for stem cells (i.e., killed), or frozen for future use.
For reasons such as these, the Church considers IVF to be gravely sinful.
You can read more here: INSTRUCTION ON RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE IN ITS ORIGIN AND ON THE DIGNITY OF PROCREATION.
There are certain procedures allowable to Catholics that enhance fertility but do not remove or replace the marital act. But for the reasons stated above, IVF is far beyond what is approved.
So here we are with another cultural showdown. IVF and abortion have this in common: they both involve playing God and saying that I have a right over life, that I call the shots. Further, though many of the proponents of IVF services may choose not to think so, discarding embryos is killing; it 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: There are likely many well intentioned couples who may never have thought through all of 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 outlined above. We live in times in which too many think that they can just have whatever they want. Many think that if we can do something, we should be free to do it. 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 the matter of what happens to imperfect or “superfluous” embryos; there is the matter of what happens to the disabled; and finally, there is the matter of where this will ultimately lead. This latest proposal goes another hideous step forward by tinkering with life in such a way that now three parents will be involved in the petri dish. Who’s your Daddy? Or in this case, who’s your Mommy? Natural family ties will be affected. And don’t tell me that there won’t be lawsuits if two mothers start to fight over the baby. Even Solomon would have a hard time sorting all this out!
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works (Psalm 139:13-14).