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Why is Everyone Talking about IVF?

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With all the talk of IVF treatments and the Alabama Supreme Court case, let us pause for a moment to understand what this discussion is all about.

In vitro fertilization (IFV) is no light lift, physically or financially. A woman who undergoes IVF must go through rounds of medications, hormone shots, transvaginal ultrasounds, blood tests, and other physically demanding procedures. One IVF cycle causes enough stress and trauma, but understand that most patients, on average, must go through around six IVF cycles before they have a successful live birth. On top of the physical burden, an IVF procedure can cost anywhere between $15,000-$30,000 – a tremendous financial lift for some.

Unlike many European countries that have banned the creation of more embryos than intended to implant into the uterus, America’s fertility industries create an abundance of embryos during IVF, knowing that many of them will never be used. Despite the dystopian feeling, fertility clinics will check embryos for their sex, hair color, eye color, etc., to allow the parents the opportunity to choose which embryo they would like; this process is often referred to as “designer babies.” Once the embryo of choice has been implanted and is growing, the unwanted embryos must be addressed, leaving the parents with two choices: destroy or freeze them. If the parents choose to freeze the embryos, they will be cryogenically frozen, where they might have the chance of future development.

So, what was the impetus for the Alabama court case? Three couples who underwent IVF treatment and all delivered babies, thanks to their treatments, had additional embryos that they chose to freeze under the care of their fertility clinic. The hospital, which houses the fertility clinic, had a patient wander into the unlocked and unsecured room where the embryos were being kept, open the freezer where the embryos were stored, grabbed a storage container holding the embryos, and dropped the container killing each embryo. One of the lawsuits filed against the fertility clinic was for negligence and wantonness, but the lawsuit that was argued at the Alabama Supreme Court was under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the embryo was indeed a child, and the parents could sue the fertility clinic.

There are some in the media and online who are screaming about how ridiculous the decision was – you might have even seen the famous picture of a fried egg with the caption, “This is what the Alabama Supreme Court thinks a chicken is.” These accusations and cheap comparisons are just that – cheap and silly one-liners. An embryo is not a human egg or sperm, but its own unique organism with its own unique DNA sequence, that once destroyed, will never exist again. It is a living being. That is why it is being kept in liquid nitrogen to try to preserve it so that its development is halted until it then will be implanted or destroyed.

As Christians, we believe that every human is an image-bearer of God, worthy of protection from the moment of conception. If one is to believe (incorrectly) that these embryos are worthless, should the parents of the embryos, who have undergone massive physical and financial lifts, still not be worthy of knowing that their unique embryos are being treated with the utmost care by the fertility clinic?

Concerned Women for America (CWA) believes so. IVF has provided so many with the opportunity to grow their family, but we also can admit that the fertility industry is like the wild wild west. Many European countries have common sense regulations, making the industry safer for both women and children. Now that the can has been opened, it is worth thinking through what regulations would benefit our own fertility industry. No industry wants to be regulated, but it is up to Congress to protect the people from profit-seeking industries and not the other way around.