IVF—and Its Children—Aren’t Going Away

The Republicans may be acting without principles, but it’s only good politics.

When I was 24, my parents sat me down and confessed, with a heavy heart, that due to infertility, I was begotten by a random sperm donor via intrauterine insemination (IUI). I thought my entire life that I was French-Canadian, but a DNA test revealed I was mostly of Irish heritage. 

My origin story is relevant because it provides me with unique insight into the Twitter topic du jour: the Alabama Supreme Court just ruled that destroying frozen embryos amounts to wrongful death of a child. The biggest hospital in Alabama has suspended all in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, IUI’s petri-dish ally, which produce many such embryos.

Now, Democrats are using IVF as a stick to whack Republicans. I don’t blame them: It’s a political winner. Polls show that 78 percent of voters who identify as “pro-life” support IVF, and even 60 percent of Republican women believe fertility treatments should be covered by health insurance. 

It’s mainly observant Catholics who are against IVF as a constituency. The Church teaches that children have the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world, and brought up within marriage. IVF separates the procreative purpose of the marital act from its unitive purpose, which the Church believes should always be intertwined. For them, it’s about human dignity. 

More gravely—and more relevant to the actual substance of the Alabama ruling—if you believe that life begins at conception, then destroying an embryo is equivalent to the taking of human life. This matters because 12–15 embryos are typically produced and cast aside as “sub-optimal” for each in vitro treatment. The National Catholic Register calculates that “over 2.5 million human beings” are “either killed or frozen in a single year in [America] to fuel this sordid industry.”

Here’s the thing, though: If this sordid industry didn’t exist, neither would I.

Were I to advocate for the strict interpretation of religious doctrines on this matter, it would suggest that my very existence is a sinful error that should not have occurred, a slap in God’s face. Of course, I know that the moral context of one’s conception does not dictate the worth or authenticity of their life; while one may born as the result of a rape, for example, it does not mean they they can’t condemn rape. So I should be allowed to condemn IVF, right? 

The Catholic position is a rejection of consequentialism—the notion that the ends justify the means. Rejecting the liceity of certain means does not, in turn, obligate us to disavow the good that may emerge from them. Consider, say, the historical example of the Mongol invasions. These conquests, undeniably bloody and brutal in their execution, reshaped the contours of the known world. Yet, it is a historical fact that a significant portion of today’s global population—some 5 percent—can trace their lineage back to these very invasions. To acknowledge the savagery of these events is not to wish nonexistence upon their descendants. Indeed, to do so would be a grave moral error.

This perspective allows us to hold two truths simultaneously: We can recognize the Mongol invasions for the cataclysmic episodes they were, causing untold suffering and reshaping civilizations in ways that were often violent and destructive. And yet, we can—and must—also acknowledge the inherent moral value of those who live today, descendants of this tumultuous history. I myself have 0.2% Mongol blood, according to my DNA test. 

But the Mongol invasions don’t matter in practical politics, whereas how we deal with life, birth, tech, and the rest is a live issue. We have to talk about IVF because we have to do something about it; we could act well, or badly, coherently or haphazardly, but we must act. Nothing we can do about Genghis Khan, on the other hand. “Rejecting consequentialism” cannot mean “rejecting debate & persuasion, coalition politics & tech policy on urgent issues.”

As a pragmatist and shrewd political operator, this is something Donald Trump realizes (although I am not sure he could define “consequentialism” if pressed). Hoping to put out this political fire before it spreads from Alabama to the swing states, on Friday, Trump released a statement calling for the Alabama legislature to enshrine the availability of IVF in law, decreeing on Truth Social that “the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy families.… I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.” His messaging filtered down to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which then released a statement confirming that “it is imperative that our candidates align with the public’s overwhelming support for IVF and fertility treatment.… [We] encourage Republican Senate candidates to clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF.”

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While Republicans are now loudly embracing IVF, they are explicitly making the Machiavellian tradeoff to compromise on their base’s supposedly-core beliefs in exchange for votes—what percentage of Republicans who support IVF also paradoxically believe that life begins at conception, and how do they square that circle? How do they deal with the cognitive dissonance? Do they feel guilt and shame over condemning millions of “sub-optimal” embryos every year to death? Why do the Catholics among them feel comfortable defying the Pope? Life is messy.

IVF suffers from all the defects of the liberal ideology of Progress; it’s believed to be available, but actually it’s very pricey and uncertain. It is neither quite magic nor really a bullet. It’s the hope and despair of professional women in middle management; a cynic might point out that Google and Facebook pay their female employees to freeze their eggs because it is profitable to convince productive employees to put off motherhood. They lie to them and say it will all work itself out at the age of 45—keep coding, honey! This is propaganda against nature, persuading a generation of collegiate women that they’re not losing fertility every day after they turn 20. At the highest level, IVF is part of the modern idea of science, where experiments in controlled circumstances replace experience. 

By embracing IVF, the Republican stance reflects a shift towards progressivism, underscoring the notion that progress, once set in motion, is difficult to reverse (or at least, that Republicans have historically been impotent at stopping or reversing it). Just as there is now no going back on IVF, there is also no going back on gay marriage, civil rights, demographic replacement, or my science-assisted conception. What’s done is done. It turns out that paying techies to implant an embryo doesn’t do away with guilt, shame, uncertainty, and everything that makes it possible for us to learn, our suffering.

Sourse: theamericanconservative.com

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