Friday, February 27, 2009

The commodification of life

Yesterday as I was resting, I found myself flipping through the pages of my mother-in-law's copy of Good Housekeeping Magazine. In its pages I found an article about a couple who had conceived a pair of twins via in-vitro fertilization. When the woman's eggs were harvested (after the hormone treatment to boost the number of follicles), the doctors harvested 18 eggs, which were then fertilized by sperm donated by her husband, and frozen. For this moment, let's leave aside the fact that if life begins at conception, which I believe is the only tenable position, we now had 18 human beings frozen in some sort of limbo. I find that horrifying and gruesome, but let's leave that aside for the moment.

The couple had three embryos placed in the woman's uteris, and two implanted: the twins she bore as a result of the process. Let's also leave aside for the moment the troubling fact that a life was created in a test tube that then died immediately, as a high percentage of these embryos do. That is also horrifying, but that is not my point, either.

This couple did a really rather commendable thing, and they are lauded as heroes in this article. When it came time to "dispose" of the remaining frozen embryos, the clinic gave them three options: they could either donate their embryos for scientific research, or donate them to an anonymous pool of embryo donors to be used for infertile couples, or they could pay a few hundred dollars to keep them in frozen storage. In the end, they found two specific families to donate the eggs to, and arranged a sort of "open adoption" for the embryos, which resulted in the births of two more sets of twins. I appreciate that this couple took some responsibility for these embryos, and tried to do a good thing in blessing other families. Again, let's forget for the moment that out of 18 babies, only six survived.

What amazed me was the following paragraph. Having been quoted by journalists, I would not presume that these words actually came out of the mouth of the egg donor, but either way, this is what was expressed:
Keeping their frozen embryos indefinitely did not seem a viable option to Glenda. And they were not the kind of people to throw money away on things they weren't going to use. She didn't have a moral objection to donating them to science. However, she and Scott had not made the embryos for research.

I had to read the paragraph three times before I could believe it. It's that second sentence:
"And they were not the kind of people to throw money away on things they weren't going to use."

The "things they weren't going to use" were babies.

I have read in the abstract about the commodification of human life: how we are beginning to think of our very selves and other human being as consumable items (commodities to be bought and sold). I have read about the pragmatism (if it's useful, it's good) that degrades the inherent worth of people, and heard philosophers and theologians moan about the pragmatic approach to human life. But I've never seen such a mainstream statement of it. It took my breath away.

I am not trying to pick on this couple. They tried, within their own framework, to "do the right thing". I understand the desire that leads to fertility treatments, and can empathize with the pain of infertile couples. But where is the Church? Why aren't we howling over the moral morass that has come from our immoral fertility business? Why aren't we leading in a better way?

I'm afraid God will send judgment on us, and deservedly so. How can so many people who claim the name of Christ see no problem here? That sends me to my knees.

1 comment:

Mrs. Edwards said...

In vitro seems to be the untouchable subject among Christians. Who feels comfortable criticizing a couple that wants a baby?

It is a crazy situation. And its getting worse. With new testing for Downs, the ability to pick and choose gender, hair color, eye color...I think we might be past a coming judgment and in the beginning stages of receiving judgment. Does that sound too paranoid?

Thanks for these thoughts. Being pro-life is more than an "unwanted pregnancy" issue.