Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

IVF and the ‘right’ to be a parent: the child as an expensive lifestyle accessory

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One thing has become abundantly clear since the development of a global, multi-billion dollar artificial procreation industry: children are now regarded as luxury commodities, very expensive ones, and they had better measure up to the expectations of customers. This assumption was bolstered the other day with the announcement in the UK from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that the numbers of single women and lesbians receiving IVF treatment has tripled in the last five years.

Some years ago, I was launched into the pro-life movement when I took an interest in the ethics and debates surrounding what were then still called the New Reproductive Technologies, in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination etc. At the time, 2002 or so, the Canadian government was considering legislation to regulate the activities already ongoing in labs across the country, and I was put in charge of organising the fight at Campaign Life Coalition against that insidious bill.

I won’t go into the details of that long battle, but suffice to say that we lost, resoundingly. All the efforts of the national pro-life lobby could not crack the determination of the very powerful and wealthy industry, and, as usual, their helpers in the media, to ensure that the billion dollar artificial procreation business was well protected in Canadian law. That the precise same pieces of legislation were being produced in nearly every other country in the west at the time, with precisely the same wording, was not lost on us. IVF and related activities are a gigantic global industry based on one mistaken, and deadly, philosophical assumption: that there is such a thing as a “right” to be a parent.

The failure to mitigate the damage of that bill was a disaster for Canadian society because it contributed mightily to a terrifying shift in the basic understanding of one of the foundational institutions of any human society: the relationship between parents and children. During that period, a massive paradigm change was undertaken in Canadian society, indeed, in nearly every society in the western world, from the presumption that the child is a gift, given into the care of a family, to the concept that the child is an object upon which individuals exercise their “right to parenthood”.

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With the advent of human control over fertility, first with the Pill and legalised abortion, and now with IVF clinics serving as expensive baby boutiques, we have changed that basic paradigm to focus solely on the desires of the parents. All our notions of sex, parenthood and family are now permanently wedded to our personal physical and emotional self-gratification. In other words, we now have both child-proof sex and manufactured children in order to satisfy our various desires for personal fulfillment. It is the final achievement of the sexual revolutionaries: the reduction of persons to the status of things.

Since the global legalisation of artificial procreation techniques, this terrifying shift has become manifest again and again in laws and regulations around the world. The news from the HFEA is only the latest demonstration.

The Christian Institute recalls that in 2008, this government regulator changed the rules on IVF, removing the requirement for clinics to “consider the child’s need for a father” before granting access to IVF, focusing instead on the need to show the availability of “supportive parenting”. 

The article http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/bioethics/big-increase-in-single-and-lesbian-women-receiving-ivf goes on to note some of the voluminous research showing that children really do need both parents, a mother and a father, to thrive and succeed in life. A 2011 report from the Centre for Social Justice concluded that a child growing up without both parents was “75% more likely to fail at school, 70% more likely to become a drug addict, 50% more likely to have an alcohol problem and 35% more likely to be unemployed as an adult”.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, an Evangelical lobby group, said, “All of the evidence shows that children prosper the most when they have a married mother and a father. Government policy needs to recognise the importance of the role of fathers and of stable marriages.”

But what we have to understand as pro-life and pro-family people, is that these studies are meaningless under the new paradigm. The priority is not the needs of children. Our society has definitively accepted (in Canada, explicitly in the law) that children are, essentially, not persons. Traditionally, in law a person is something that is protected for his own sake, who has rights of his own and who cannot be bought or sold or killed; as opposed to a thing that is protected only for the sake of others and that can be killed on a whim.

With the advent of legalised abortion, a child can be killed at the whim of the mother, reducing him to the legal status of a chattel object; at best, a lower ranking person, whose needs are always superseded by the needs, rights and even desires of adults. The acceptance and legalisation of artificial procreation simply takes the logic to its next step, saying that a thing that can be destroyed at will can now also be manufactured at will.

This is why it is irrelevant to the HFEA that children genuinely need two parents to thrive. Single women and lesbians, they believe, have a “right to be parents” and this right takes precedent over any other consideration. That this change has dramatically increased the customer base for the IVF industry seems to have gone unnoticed, or at least unmentioned, by the people making the laws.

While we were fighting the Canadian legislation, the main gist of the pro-life argument was that it would tend to create precisely this new outlook toward children. We treat commodities completely differently from the way we treat a dependent person for whom we have responsibility. A luxury good exists for the customer. It must meet the customer’s specifications and if it does not, it can, and ought to be discarded and exchanged for another. This is certainly reflected in IVF, including the creation and selection of many embryos, the concept of “selective reduction” in which “extra” children are aborted and many other common practices of the trade.

Some years before the legislation passed, CBC taped a program on IVF highlighting the campaign of a group of would-be parents to get the national health service to pay for their IVF treatments. During that interview one of the campaigners said, “We have a right to be parents”. It was the first time this was publicly articulated so bluntly, but the CBC interviewer did not make the next point, that if there is such a things as a right be a parent, there must, by definition, be a right to have a child. Not the right, mind you, to do the things that people have always done that may result in a child, but a right to the child himself, to acquire him.

It only stands to reason therefore, that it would be a short jump to making sure the child is the right sort in terms of sex and in good condition in terms of freedom from disease or deformity. If you are going to spend $10,000 a pop on buying this very expensive commodity, to which you have this putative “right,” you also have a right to get a good one. One that is not defective, and will fulfill the purpose of the transaction.

People can be confused by the objection of pro-life movement, and the Catholic Church, to IVF. Isn’t the whole point that we want people to have babies?

Actually no. What we want is for the laws to treat babies like people. IVF is merely the next step in a long progression of massive societal changes, fundamental changes in our outlook, that reduce babies, and by extension all people, to the status of things.

When we made these arguments in Parliament, perhaps due to the massive change in outlook that had already occurred 30 years before with legalised abortion, we were shouted down. The idea that children could be “commodified” was absurd, ridiculous.

We were told that we were standing in the way of progress, that IVF would be the solution to the terrible suffering of infertility. It was even suggested that IVF could solve the looming population crisis. The Church leaders, even those who were with us in principle, mostly shrugged, saying that the practises were ongoing already and at least the legislation would “regulate” them. And besides, we were assured, once the law is in place, it can be amended, improved, as the situation and the science advances.

Now, ten years on, we have selective reduction, “wrongful birth” lawsuits, sex-selection, and eugenic screening of “designer babies”. The concept of the child as an expensive lifestyle accessory is cemented in the global consciousness in the west. And sometimes I regret being Cassandra.


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Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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