Friday January 8, 2010

Jennifer Lopez Down on In Vitro – So Why is IVF Contrary to Pro-Life Values

Commentary By Hilary White

January 7, 2010 ( – I have to admit that when I hear the name Jennifer Lopez, traditional morality is not the first thing that springs to mind. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the girl, but I’m afraid the first thing I usually think of is the rather succinct but apt expression of a friend of mine: “pop-tart”.

And certainly, for a young woman who spent, as she says, all her school years going through the New York City Catholic education system, one has to wonder if she skipped school every time the issue of modesty was discussed. So it was a pleasant surprise to see today that she refuses to participate in one of the greatest moral disasters of the modern era.

Today Elle magazine issued an interview with Mrs. Marc Anthony in which she avers her moral objection to artificial methods of procreation. Jennifer told Elle, “When it comes to family and relationships, I’m quite traditional. Just because of the way I was raised … And I also believe in God and I have a lot of faith in that, so I just felt like you don’t mess with things like that.”

Her remarks come after she has finished filming a movie, “The Back-Up Plan,” the plot of which revolves around artificial insemination by an anonymous donor.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the response from the celebrity-watchers on the internet has been blank incredulity. One commented, “Jennifer Lopez is more delusional than we thought,” and said she “can’t help the crazy-talk”.

“Crazy-talk”. Yep, that about sums up the world’s opinion about any moral objection to, well, really to anything on offer in modernity’s bountiful sexual and procreative caffeteria.

And I’m afraid I have to fault Mrs. Anthony’s explanation: “I’m traditional.” “It’s the way I was raised.” “I believe in God.”

Yes? And? It seems a disappointing result of a lifetime in Catholic schools that Jennifer can give nothing more than a vague hand-wave toward a reasonable objection. Why, specifically, we might ask, does belief in God mean an objection to IVF? What does being “traditional” have to do with infertile couples acquiring babies by whatever means is medically available?

And indeed, when on the rare occasions the news leaks out that the Catholic Church objects to artificial procreation, the response is usually the same kind of incredulous mockery. “What is it with these Catholics anyway? I thought that bad old Catholic Church wanted women to have as many babies as possible. There’s just no pleasing them.” But there I am in the fourth sentence above unblushingly calling artificial procreation “one of the worst moral disasters” of our time.

We might not, however, be able confidently to fault Jennifer’s apparently total lack of solid reasoning behind her assertion. She’s “speaking from the heart,” which is what she’s trained to do. But more importantly, the moral objections to in vitro fertilisation, with all the constellation of procedures now available in fertility clinics, are among the best kept secrets of the pro-life movement and of the Catholic Church.

The idea that there can be sound reasons, based on hard medical and scientific facts, behind moral objections to anything is one that the modern mind has great difficulty grasping. And the Church in many places has not helped by keeping the focus of the moral law set strictly to “soft” and largely failing to present the straightforward reasons against IVF and related evils. For this reason, even people who are steadfastly pro-life on the black-and-white issues like abortion and euthanasia, tend to be left tongue-tied and easily swayed on the more difficult and complex topics.

Jennifer’s objections to IVF are similar in tone to those often given by perfectly sincere pro-life people on a range of issues, including abortion, and they do indeed come from the heart. But if we are to make a reasonable, winnable, case for our position, there has to be more than the soft-focus, emotional, instinctive response from the heart, however correct it might be.

For this reason, LSN will be launching a series of columns by myself and others giving what we call “Pro-Life 101” answers to the common objections of our opponents. These, we hope, will allow readers to make a reasonable case, based on facts and sound reasoning, on a range of topics that people often find difficult to defend coherently. We hope our readers will be pleasantly surprised by how essentially uncomplicated the morality of such issues as IVF can be, despite their great scientific complexity.

The Reasoning Behind the Objections to IVF

Here, therefore, in a nutshell, is the reason why the Catholic Church, the pro-life movement and even people of vaguely “traditional” moral beliefs like Mrs. Anthony, object to artificial methods of procreation.

The first principle of what I have elsewhere dubbed “the early life issues” is that a human being, whole, entire and complete, is fully in existence from the first moment of the fusion of the genes from ovum and sperm, what is often called “conception”. And by “a human being,” I mean just that. A person, like you or me or Jennifer Lopez or the bus driver or milk man or anyone.

It is simply a myth, generated by the abortion industry, that “science does not know when human life begins”. This myth can be refuted by opening any first-year university text on human embryology. They all agree that the zygote, the human embryo at the first, single-cell stage of existence, is fully a human being. It is genetically distinct from the mother, it is either male or female, it respirates and consumes nutrients separately, it has every part of the genetic make-up of the adult and its growth is ordered according to that genetic information. It is the same being as the foetus, the infant, the child, the adolescent and the adult it will potentially become. The zygote, therefore, is not a “potential human” it is merely a “potential adult,” as I am a potential little old lady.

The second principle is the same for all issues of interest to the pro-life movement: “You can’t kill people to solve your problems.” IVF and almost all the treatments available in fertility clinics necessitate the deaths of many human beings at the embryonic stage of life. Typically, IVF treatments involve the creation and destruction of dozens of human embryos to get one positive result.

So, of first importance, is that IVF and related activities, kills people. Lots of people. They just happen to be very small and unrecognised as persons by most laws.

Second to these considerations is that IVF does harm to the integrity and rights of the child. As the Catholic Church put it in its seminal document Donum Vitae (“the Gift of Life”):

“The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.”

This simple, clear statement is the key to the whole puzzle of why there is a moral objection to artificial procreation. Artificial procreation techniques may indeed result in giving some couples children they wouldn’t otherwise have, but the cost is too high.

Ethically, the bottom line is that the effort to force the creation of a child by these techniques ignores the genuine rights of the child in favour of the supposed rights of the parents. It essentially places the child into the position of chattel, of a thing, an object that can be demanded as a right in order to fulfil the personal desires of adults. It is the ultimate commodification of the human person, to say that if we hold the “right to be a parent” as paramount, that a child must be procured, by hook or by crook, to satisfy that desire.

The fact that we can now go to the IVF store and buy a baby, in most countries whether we are married or not, is the final expression of the dehumanizing effects of the abortion mentality. IVF has made the child into the ultimate high-end luxury product.

All this, of course, is just for starters. The subject is broad and interesting, but if you are just a regular person like me, without degrees in philosophy or human embryology and without a great deal of time for study, it does not have to be difficult to understand and to articulate the pro-life objections to artificial procreation techniques.

These techniques violate the rights of a person so created to be conceived naturally in marriage, to be gestated by his mother, to be born, and to live. It does not have to be more complex than that.