About 120 nurses and other supporters attended the First General Meeting of Nurses for Life, Toronto Chapter, this past October. Mary Lynn MacPherson, President of Nurses for Life Ottawa, opened the meeting and had this to say about the changing attitudes towards health care givers: “Nurses, as advocates for their patients, were originally taught that they held very responsible positions and were often required to make very important decisions – decisions which involve life and death procedures such as in the case with abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.”

Mary Lynn emphasized that “it certainly is hard to be a nurse, and certainly hard to be a pro-life nurse.” “Especially,” she added, “when the Nurses Association of Ontario (ONA) actively supports such organizations as Dying With Dignity, and is slated to discuss the possibility of joining NAC at their next general meeting.” (NAC, The national Action League on the Status of Women, is Canada’s largest feminist organization and openly supports abortion on demand.)

After a brief introduction, Mary Lynn turned the floor over to guest speaker, Dr. Donald de Marco, philosophy professor at St. Jerome’s College, Waterloo University, and writer for Challenge Magazine. His topic was “Motherhood.” Dr. de Marco believes that motherhood is being “thinned out” by the practices of in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy. According to him, these two practices are redefining motherhood, making its meaning tenuous, vague, and often times allowing the courts to decide on the “real” mother.

Dr. de Marco described the process of in-vitro fertilization as follows: the woman is injected with hormones causing her to super-ovulate, the eggs are removed, fertilized outside the body in a petri dish, and the excess embryos are frozen. (The frozen embryos are stored to be thawed for later use.) De Marco said that because IVF is so costly the practice of freezing the excess embryos came into being. He noted his concern over the process, adding that doctors do not know how dangerous the freezing and thawing processes are to the child. In fact, he pointed out, the University of Monash has established that the death rate of these frozen embryos is over 90 per cent. But, “people today are more concerned with accomplishing a ‘good end’ result, without considering the means which brought that good,” remarked de Marco.

He continued, “there are four main branches of medicine: preventative, diagnostic, curative and alleviatory. In the example of an infertile couple, low sperm count or blocked oviduct, the couple is not resorted to health (cured) by IVF (the couple remains infertile). No disease is cured, but rather a desire is satisfied. We need to draw distinctions between disease and desire! Desire does not justify medical intervention. The integrity of the medical profession rests on adherence to ethics – to treat disease, not to comply with desire,” and “there is a great danger if the medical profession capitulates with people’s desire. This is obvious in the case of abortion – no disease is present (pregnancy) but the patient has a desire.”

De Marco feels that IVF has had a very detrimental effect on the way children are viewed. He said that “U.S. lawyer, Noel Keane (one of the pioneers of surrogacy contracts in The States) has impressioned people with his suggestion that every man, married or not, has a right to have his own baby. However, while a husband and wife do have a right to intercourse, they do not have a right to a child. That’s why slavery was abolished, because no person has the right to another person. Parents are custodians of their children (gifts from God); they do not own them. But, with IVF the child, no longer though of as a gift, becomes a “product,” a product synthesized for a particular claim.”

Dr. de Marco also mentioned embryo transfer as another method of currently beginning to be used to provide infertile couples with a child. He said that there is no surgery required but that the lavage process is used to remove a six-day-old foetus from the womb of one woman and implant it into the womb of another. This very delicate procedure has a failure rate of 80 per cent, and there is a very high rate of ectopic pregnancy, which is fatal for the child and often dangerous to the mother. “Also, the donating woman is pressured into signing a consent form agreeing to have a therapeutic abortion should the procedure fail and she become burdened with an “unwanted pregnancy!” he added.

De Marco spoke a little on the famous surrogacy case involving Mary Beth Whitehead, the Sterns, and Baby “M”. He said that the clinical psychologist in the case had concluded that the not a surrogate “mother,” but a surrogate “uterus.” “This,” de Marco remarked, “denigrates Mary Beth Whitehead to just a series of parts.” “Also”, he proceeded, “ Mary Beth indicated, in one of her many conversations with Mr. Stern, that she had changed her mind – that she wanted to keep her baby. She drew attention to the fact that since she was the only person legally able to kill (abort) the child, she must be considered the ‘real’ mother (and be allowed to keep her child).”

Modern technology has created a new definition of motherhood: the mother is the person who has the right to kill the child! In fact, abortion brings this right to fruition by allowing the mother to decide whether the child lives or dies.

Dr. de Marco concluded by informing the audience of the new developments at Toronto’s East General Hospital. East General has a new programme available to infertile couples – the Life Programme, and the legal implications of this programme are enormous. As de Marco pointed out, one stipulation inherent in the contractual agreement between the hospital and the couple considering this programme is the signing of a Release Form. The couple must sign a Release Form freeing the hospital from any possible future “paternity” suits. This seems to imply that the hospital becomes the “guardian” of the embryos fertilized and stored in their labs. Indeed, if the biological parents become separated or divorced between the time the eggs are fertilized and the time they are used, the hospital assumes legal responsibility for the embryos. In a very real sense the child becomes a commodity, and the hospital maintains the legal right to dispose of him/her as it sees fit!

Dr. de Marco’s talk was both interesting and informative. And, for a First general Meeting, Nurses for Life Toronto made a great impact on their audience. Judging from the many new members the pro-life nurses enrolled and the spirit in the room, Nurses for Life can look forward to a healthy attendance at any of their upcoming functions.