Over the last number of years many people have begun to grasp that there are interrelationships between such things as abortion, sterilization, the contraceptive mentality, homosexuality, euthanasia, artificial insemination, sperm banks, test tube babies, surrogate motherhood, cloning and experimentation on embryos. Those who accept abortion, for example, will experience no pangs of conscience in experimenting with human embryos, killing them when no longer needed or when the experiment runs out, or when, finally, one of the many embryos used results in a pregnancy. It is this kind of experimentation that is practiced or envisaged by “test-tube clinics” at Quebec’s Laval University, the University of Western Ontario, Toronto’s East General Hospital and other places in Canada which have opened – or are about to open – similar bio-medical laboratories.
The human artificial insemination (H.A.I) program as now practiced has become an example of scientific madness, typical, perhaps, of our schizophrenic society which at one and the same time aborts unborn babies “en masse”. Attached to this experimentation are real possibilities of new and more numerous genetic defects; legal entanglements about all sorts of matters such as the identity of the child, the nature of parenthood and broken contracts affecting surrogate mothers, parents and new children; genetic engineering and such developments as part (?) humans from unfertilized human eggs; the separation of procreation from any form of family life with the subsequent peril of upsetting the human ecology, the balance of which is at least as delicate as that in the world of nature. Separating procreation from the family, for example, surely will have an adverse effect on what is known as bonding between child and parent(s). While we wait for proper laws to be put in place – which in itself requires careful deliberation—all funding for bio-medical experimentation with H.A.I should be cut off.
As for the formulation of policies for in vitro fertilization (I.V.F) and H.A.I. it should start with an awareness that not all ways of acquiring knowledge are unobjectionable and that not all uses of science are consistent with true respect for humanity. Instead of giving science the benefit of the doubt, the science of I.V.F. should not proceed further until it justifies procedures and purpose first, demonstrating that these comply with proper ethical norms.
One place where such norms may be found is in the recent submission to the British Government Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology (the Warnock Committee) by the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee on Bio-Ethical Issues under the title In Vitro Fertilization: Morality and Public Policy. As the Committee puts it: “The principle that human beings are not to be used as mere means to the ends of other human beings holds good even when those ends are as worthy and useful as the advance of biological and medical science.” The Committee goes on to explain that respect for human persons: “rules out deliberate and direct killing or injuring of innocent human beings and deliberate neglect and wastage of human lives which are under one’s direct responsibility and control.” This means that “certain aspects of much current IVF practice are … fundamentally unacceptable and ought to be prohibited by any civilized community.” Among such aspects the Committee mentions:
● forms of experimentation on, or observation of the human embryo, other than those made “to the benefit of that embryo itself”, which are likely to damage or endanger it;
● forms of storage, including freezing, which are “done without genuine and definite prospect of subsequent transfer, unimpaired, to the proper mother”;
● selection among “living and developing embryos” with a view to “transferring and implanting only the fittest and the most desirable.”
It should be clear already that acceptance of the above principles alone would require changes in the operations of teams now working in the IVF field. But the above principles are not exhaustive. The second section of the Report has a sub-section which deals with “IVF and the bonds of marriage.” Under this heading the Committee states that:
● The law of the land should acknowledge that children have a right to be born the true child of a married couple and thus to have an unimpaired sense of “identity”.
● From this follows that “the law should not countenance procedures which deliberately set out to create children whose biological parentage or “identity” differs from their parentage or “identity” of upbringing. In other words, “our society should not countenance IVF and artificial insemination outside existing marriage.” This would exclude surrogate motherhood or fatherhood by ovum or semen-donation, womb “leasing”, uniparental pre-creation by cloning, and so on.
In the third and final section, entitled “Some other aspects…” the Committee expresses special concern about “the severing of procreation from sexual intercourse”, and what it regards as the “production” rather than the “procreation” of the child. After explaining these terms and examining the effects of “production” on a child’s identity and on his relationship to his parents, the Committee points out that even “parents whose motives are good motives” can get involved in using “morally flawed procedures, which inherently undermine fundamental human good and the attitudes appropriate to it”.
The Report’s final conclusion is as follows:
“Even a society which had excluded the destructive and other directly exploitative procedures mentioned in Part 11, would have to be aware of the more subtle and long-run evils which we have suggested may be involved in arranging procreation severed from the central marital act: undesirable and scarcely irreversible changes in the way parents regard their children; in the way partners in marriage regard each other; and in the way men and women regard their bodily life and the most intimately involving personal interaction within that life. Each of these changes, bad in themselves, would also make more difficult, in principle and in practice, resistance to the general trivializing of sexual intercourse, commercialization and/or state control of reproductive activity; selection of children on eugenic grounds; the moulding of children’s most basic characteristics by parents, technicians, and other interested persons, groups and governments; and even more extensive resort to that awesome instrument of compassion become ruthless and inhumane, the embryo bank.”
Copies of the submission may be obtained from Joint Committee on Bio-Ethical Issues. Meanwhile, let us inform governments that we want funding of IVF programs stopped.