How many Canadians do you think know the nature of the procedures involved in assisted reproductive technologies and in vitro-fertilization? How many Christians, or other generally pro-life people, do you think understand the nature of these procedures? Well, I don’t know the details either, but I am thinking particularly of the abortion/murder-related implications.
About a year ago, an evangelical monthly magazine published a heart-warming testimony of a couple who couldn’t have children until they turned to reproductive technology, resulting in quintuplets. The article was very positive, talking about the couple’s strong faith and the way they committed their desire for children before God. It also talked about the support they received from their faith community. The article, though, provided no discussion of the moral implications of reproductive technologies. Some people might say that a testimonial-type article doesn’t require such a discussion. I beg to differ, though, when one considers the moral implications.
What moral implications? Well, the woman didn’t ask for five babies. She ended up with five embryos because those administering reproductive technologies like to get more than one egg fertilized in case the first one doesn’t develop successfully. But what if it does? Well, the other embryos are destroyed, “killed” or stored and are likely to be killed later. The way reproductive technology is currently practised, embryos are being developed that nobody expects to end up being used to impregnate women, resulting in a fully developed baby. In other words, reproductive technology is directly implicated in the murder of unborn children. So, how does one explain the kind of one-sided article I read in this magazine from a pro-life denomination? Fortunately, contact with leading ministers revealed that others recognized a problem with the overall positive message the article in question sent regarding reproductive technologies. I was told that the article gave new impetus to a consideration of what the denomination’s position should be on the issue.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. We were visiting old friends in the U.S. who are also part of our church tradition. We got into a discussion on reproductive technologies and IVF and I mentioned the fact that extra eggs are often fertilized in the procedures. This politically aware pro-lifer was shocked at what I was telling him. He wasn’t aware of this aspect of reproductive technology.
Most of you reading this article are probably very knowledgeable pro-life activists so, perhaps like me, you are surprised when you run across other like-minded individuals who may be less active, who aren’t aware of facts that have been clear to us for a long time. I talked to a Catholic pro-life leader to see if she thought there was as high a degree of illiteracy among Catholic parishioners on this issue as seems to exist among evangelical laymen. She did.
I am wondering just how effectively we are getting our message out about the life and death realities of reproductive technologies. We aren’t going to see our society completely roll back reproductive technologies; those who advocate them have won the public relations campaign with their rhetoric of compassion for infertile couples who really want to have a biological child.
We should, however, be able to make compelling arguments for Christians in general, the people who supposedly share our underlying theological and moral outlook on life. One of the two most important arguments is this life and death case. The other, of course, is the fact that technologies that use sperm or an egg from somebody other than one’s spouse violate the sanctity of the marriage relationship. Not all technologies require this situation, though. The life and death argument is more widely relevant. The wrong decision is also much more final.