Opinion

Why Anti-Choice People Are Okay with IVF

If you dislike abortion because you believe every embryo is a person, you should hate IVF, which results in the destruction of millions of embryos.

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Erin Lux

Like a lot of women in America, I have had some fertility challenges.

At times, this has made me very sad and frustrated because I would love to have a child. But it has not made me think that we should force other women to have babies they don’t want so I can adopt them, because, while voluntarily putting a baby up for adoption is an act of enormous kindness, I do not regard women as walking wombs who should pop out infants for my convenience.

I don’t live in The Handmaid’s Tale, and if I did, I’d like to think I wouldn’t be one of the creepy wives. If you need an abortion, I’ll drive you to the doctor, even if my desires right now may not be the same as yours.

Since I am not an abject sociopath in that regard, but still, again, very much want to have a child, I spend a lot of time in a fertility office getting poked, prodded, and otherwise undergoing a lot of unpleasant but hopefully helpful tests.

And while there are a lot of unpleasant things about going to a reproductive health clinic, I have never once had to walk past a protester to go inside. Thank God.

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Anti-abortion demonstrators seen holding a protest outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri, while clinic escorts stand by.
SAUL LOEB

Now, if anti-choice protesters truly believe that every fertilized egg is a person ("life begins at conception" is a popular phrase), they’d be protesting en masse because clinics that provide IVF (in vitro fertilization) extract eggs, fertilize them in a lab, and then implant them in a womb. Most people produce more than one viable embryo. Those excess embryos can be saved in case IVF implementation doesn’t work the first time. When it does work, many people choose to donate their excess embryos for scientific research, although you can also keep your embryos in case you wish to have access to them in the future, or you can offer them up to other couples.

People who choose to offer their embryos to the scientific community, which results in their destruction, aren’t doing anything substantially different than women who have abortions and offer their embryos to the scientific community—although the latter provokes immense rage in the anti-choice community.

IVF results in the destruction of literally millions of embryos. If you dislike abortion because you believe every embryo is a person, you should hate IVF.

But people don’t.

While approximately 48 per cent of the country identifies as anti-choice, IVF doesn’t upset the vast majority of people. Only 12 percent of Americans believe it to be morally wrong.

The highest percentage is among Hispanic Catholics, of whom 18 per cent are opposed, followed by evangelicals, among whom 14 per cent are opposed. While the procedure is still decried by the Catholic Church, according to The Washington Post, most major religions have come to embrace IVF. People refer to it in overtly religious terms. The first test tube baby was described by her mother as “truly, a gift from God.” Her husband, claimed, “I am not a religious man, but I thank God that I heard our little girl cry for the first time.”

Even in Alabama, Senator Clyde Chambliss, who sponsored the bill that effectively banned abortion in the state, has no problem with discarding the embryos produced by IVF. In his words: “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

He might have followed up by saying, “But at least she wants to be, as she should.”

Because, that, there, really is the position that anti-choice people are taking. It’s not that every embryo is a sacred human life. It’s that every woman should choose to be pregnant, and a mother. That, according to conservative rhetoric, is what good women do. IVF is fine, because women doing it are attempting to become mothers, which is what conservatives, especially far right conservatives, believe they ought to be doing.

And because of that, if you wish to take special medical steps to have a child, people will not question your choice. No one quizzes me on whether or not I am “mature” enough to make the decision to have a child, as they do with women who wish to have abortions, despite the fact that (I imagine) having a child requires substantially more maturity than not having one. If I wished to become pregnant as a teenager I could be on a strangely popular reality show, whereas if I wished to get an abortion, I would, in most states, need at least my parent’s permission.

No one is forced to counsel me on what medical risks I will be taking if I insist on becoming pregnant, despite the fact that they’re substantial, as birthing a child could, for instance, kill me.

Meanwhile, women seeking abortions have to listen to medically inaccurate information about how an abortion could cause breast cancer. No doctor will soberly inform me that childbirth can substantially increase my risk of depression, but in many states they do have to tell women that there are psychologically damaging consequences to abortion, despite the fact that studies do not indicate this. And while women are actively encouraged to have many children by members of the right, a woman who elects to have none by tying her tubes is subjected to a ton of paternalistic scrutiny about her motivations.

No one will doubt that you are making the right choice if you wish to become a mother, because it is the choice people think women are supposed to make. What we need to realize as a society is that there is no “right” choice for women. There are only choices that are right for you as an individual. And they should remain choices you alone can make.

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