Campaign Life Coalition representatives appeared before the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies in Toronto on November 19. The Commissioners heard a tough, no-compromise position based on an intensively-researched and carefully-documented written brief.
CLC reiterated its basic principle that each human life has intrinsic value from the moment of fertilization and urged the Commission to recommend that the preborn child, at all stages, be legally protected from non-therapeutic manipulation and from destruction.
CLC pointed out that the new reproductive technologies (in particular, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood) do not cure infertility but instead attempt to sidestep it along to way, causing even more problems. It was noted that IVF is very expensive, has a very low success rate and recommended that a more appropriate and responsible use of research time and money would be to institute programmes to discover the causes of and cures for infertility.
The organization has taken the position that medical intervention in the normal process of conceiving a child has the potential for deep trauma for the children, the families and society. CLC, therefore, called for a ban on the use of artificial insemination by donor (AID) by single women. It also rejected AID for married couples, pointing out that children have a right to know this view should not be interpreted as a position against adoption where special circumstances often preclude children knowing their background). CLC also rejected artificial insemination by marital intercourse but assists it to achieve an in vivo conception.
CLC expressed great concern over the fate of embryos created through IVF and then stored in freezers. These tiny preborn children urgently need protection from experimentation and destruction. The organization strongly recommended that these children be returned to a human uterine environment to enable them to resume their natural prenatal development.
One of CLC’s major concerns with reproductive technology is the potential it offers for experimentation on embryos. The organization urged an immediate and total ban on such non-therapeutic experimentation. Diagnostic or therapeutic intervention is permissible only if it respects the life and integrity of the preborn child, if it does not involve disproportionate risk but is directed toward survival.
Following the same philosophy, the CLC brief also discussed at some length the issue of genetic engineering. The organization adopted the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki, insisting that concern for the subject must always be aimed towards the diagnostic and therapeutic good of the individual. Any manipulation of the genetic information in human cells, except when it is done for the purpose of repairing defects, CLC insisted, must be prohibited.
CLC also rejected the acceptability of fetal transplants, sex-selection abortion and genetic screening where the intent is to abort the disabled child. It asked that surrogate pregnancy contracts be made illegal, since such contracts treat the child as a commodity and diminish the dignity of women.
Perhaps coming as a surprise to some, the CLC brief also discussed the harm these reproductive technologies do to women. Although the pro-life movement is often portrayed as caring only about the preborn child, CLC tackled in some depth the ways in which these procedures harm and degrade women. The organization deplores the way in which women who desperately want a child are abused and humiliated by these procedures.
Presenting the brief to the Royal Commission on behalf of CLC were Mrs. Margaret Purcell, national vice-president, Miss Winifride Prestwich, secretary to the Board, and Dr. John Kiernan, professor of anatomy at the University of Western Ontario.