Even my car knows it’s true. (Though, she needs a crash course on capitalization.)
Even my car knows it’s true. (Though, she needs a crash course on capitalization.)
Thank you for this article. It got me thinking in particular about two things.
First – we can often say all of the right things in all the wrong ways, and our shame of the way that people say things can confuse us into rejecting the good and correct points they are trying to make. But we shouldn’t let that ad hominem fallacy keep us from seeing the truth they may have to share.
Second – Just because something is better doesn’t make it good. Yes, non-stimulated harvest of oocytes and implantation of single embryos is “better” because that more closely resembles the God-created process, but does “better” necessarily mean “God pleasing?” It is never “God pleasing” to lose even one child from the womb (regardless of the process by which that child was conceived). I used to be caught in that web of deceit woven by the devil that one-at-a-time fertilization and implantation was better, so it must be good and God pleasing. But better doesn’t mean good. The only things we can say with certainty are good are those things for which we have a clear Word of the Lord (e.g. natural conception in the context of marriage). In all else, even when we didn’t think it was sin to begin with or even if we never realize its true nature as sin, we must rest upon the grace of Christ to cover our sinfulness, confess that sinfulness (as we do in the Lord’s Prayer), and receive the blessing of Almighty God for the sake of His Son, Jesus. That is our only hope – not whether our “better” choices were “good” choices.
Rev. Michael Mohr
The infertility industry not only allows for unreported, anonymous sperm donations and child-freezing but also for the killing of children at the whim of adults (parents, judges, doctors, technicians, etc.).
What about the children’s rights? They basically have none, at least not any that an adult would feel bound to respect, and the children involved have the disadvantage of not being the paying customer in the industry. There are no checks and balances set in place, legal or social, to protect the rights of the children created, handled, and destroyed by the infertility industry.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute explains it this way in an interview with Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. (November 22, 2011):
“A lot of our social systems have built-in, self-correction mechanisms…[T]he free market where we let people do what they want has built into it a system of property rights protection and a system of competition to keep people from getting too far out of hand. There’s nothing built in to in vitro fertilization and the industry around it that stops people from going too far. Absolutely nothing.”
If there are no checks and balances set in place in the infertility industry, what exactly is powering the frantic steam roller that is infertility medicine? Dr. Morse explains:
“[W]e have sort of drifted into the system that we have now. [N]obody ever sat down and said to themselves, ‘You know, I think it would be a great idea if anyone with money could do anything they want as far as bringing a child into being, whether they have to have a relationship with their child’s other parent or not. We’re going to give legal parenting rights to whoever intends to be a parent, never mind if there’s any biological relationship or anything like that.’ Nobody sat down and thought through and said, ‘Hey, this is a great idea. Let’s do it.’ We just kind of drifted into this position, and the in vitro fertilization industry is pretty much unregulated. People say it’s like the Wild West. Well, that’s actually kind of a smirch on the Wild West, because the Wild West did have some sense of order and some internal sense of right and wrong. And in this particular case, people seem to think that as long as the adults get what they want, they don’t really have to think through what they’re doing to the individual child. And they certainly don’t have to think through what they’re doing to the whole system that everybody is operating within…I think it is really quite appalling that what we’ve got is a system that is being driven by two things…One, it’s being driven by the passions of the infertile woman, and, two, it’s being driven by the greed of the infertility industry.”
(Dr. Morse’s full interview can be heard here.)
In a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air (January 17, 2013), science editor Judith Shulevitz shines the light on the fact that we can’t even be sure of the longterm medical consequences to both the mother and children affected by infertility treatments:
“[W]e just don’t know what we’re doing. There just isn’t a lot of data, particularly in America. The good stuff is coming out of other countries where they actually have the information collated in a national health registry. In this country, the fertility industry only reports pregnancy rates to the CDC – the Centers for Disease Control – and we don’t do follow up studies.”
Ms. Shulevitz continues to explain that it is not just a lack of required data which should cause us concern but also the cavalier, consumer-driven mentality which steam-powers an already unregulated industry:
“[W]e’re not studying [fertility] enough. We don’t regulate it enough.[W]e celebrate triumphantly each breakthrough as if it was an absolute good, and we don’t go cautiously enough and I think that’s a problem, and as the age of first birth creeps up more, and more women are going to be availing themselves of these technologies, and I think that we really ought to go carefully.”
(Ms. Shulevitz’s full interview can be heard here. PLEASE NOTE: I neither agree with nor endorse Ms. Shulevitz’s personal views on feminism, birth control, or family planning.)
Question Submitted: I am overwhelmed with the options out there for couples dealing with infertility. My husband and I are embarking on an IUI cycle this month which will include clomid, menopur, and hCG. I feel like there is a lack of information available regarding treatment options outside of IVF. I know where my beliefs stand on this, but the other options are pretty fuzzy for me. I feel pretty confident in my decision since it will not involve selecting good/bad embryos, but I still wonder where that line is regarding going beyond God’s plans and trying to take matters into your own hands.
Fuzzy. I think that’s a key word in your question. You’re absolutely right about there being a lack of clarity within our Christian circles about fertility treatment options. I applaud you for seeing clearly that IVF is not an option and for loving your neighbor by avoiding this process. But what about the other methods? Aside from the herbal or pharmaceutical treatments that can be taken to simply help with ovulation, the other options really revolve around the donation of sperm and the injection of that sperm into the womb, otherwise known as insemination.
“I still wonder where that line is…” you confess. Don’t we all? My husband and I dealt with this, too, as you can read about in a previous post, How Close Can We Get? But here’s a quick summary: we don’t know for sure where that line is. The Bible, which gives us God’s Law-those clearly drawn lines that are unmistakable-does not discuss IUI’s or GIFT or Clomid. As with many other modern scientific possibilities, Christians have to use what the Bible does give us in order to help guide our ethical decisions. I really think the post just mentioned is the best answer to your broader question, but I will try and unpack some of the other specifics here.
There are a couple of aspects to consider when looking at insemination procedures. First, there’s the fact that sperm needs to be collected. Second, conception would occur outside the act of intercourse. Both of these are a big deal and need to be taken seriously. The sperm collection topic will be addressed in a future post since there is so much to cover with that one (yes, the Bible does actually have something to say about this!). Let’s take a look at the second aspect.
The truth is, there just isn’t a unified opinion among conservative church bodies, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, about the necessity of intercourse for conception. The majority say that insemination, while done between a married couple, in no way violates their one-flesh union. They are using the broad definition, of course, that the union is the joining together of a man and a woman in a sexually faithful relationship for life. Narrowly speaking though, during insemination there is no physical union of fleshes at all. And it’s for that reason that the idea has always made me and my husband uncomfortable.
“You mean my husband and I don’t even have to touch each other and we can conceive a baby?” I remember thinking when we first looked into all those treatments. I had always thought the biblical references to our patriarchs “knowing” their spouses and then conceiving was so romantic. “Know” is such a great biblical word. It covers more than just the modern definition of sex, which so often occurs now between two people who have just met and don’t even know each other’s last names. I believed that “knowing” involved all those wonderful things that marriage should be: shared interests, shared faiths, shared experiences, a shared name, and shared bodies. This “knowing,” this union, was supposed to combine these two separate beings to produce another flesh, a child.
I realize that this romantic idea of my husband and I producing a miniature version of ourselves as a result of our physical love is probably never going to happen. But the desire to make that dream come true has never been strong enough to drive us to remove the physical aspect from the “knowing” of each other in order to achieve the end goal.
There isn’t a commandment about this. As I mentioned, most pastors would probably say that my conscience is over-active. But when you go against your conscience you are sinning, regardless of whether the action you are doing is, in fact, sinful. ”I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean,” Romans 14:14, and “For whatever does not procede from faith is sin,” Romans 14:23. The study note in my Bible explains these verses further: “If one’s conscience is not clear before God regarding certain behaviors, one dare not engage in them,” (TLSB pg. 1938).
“I feel pretty confident in my decision…” A decision as big as this needs to be made without a nagging conscience and with the support of your pastor. If you aren’t able to get both of these, pray for strength to step back and re-evaluate your options. And if you’re not sure what to pray, just open your hymnal.
Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways,
To keep His statues still!
Oh, that my God would grant me grace
To know and do His will.
Order my footsteps by Thy Word
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
Lutheran Service Book, hymn 707, verses 1 & 2