Ontario Gov’t Panel Urges Funding In Vitro Fertilization for all, Including Singles

By Patrick B. Craine

August 26, 2009 ( – ‘Assisted reproduction’ (AR), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), should be funded by the province, says Ontario’s government-appointed ‘expert’ panel on infertility and adoption in a report released yesterday. The government, further, should fund the freezing of embryos because they “reduce costs,” and all Ontarians, they say, should have access to AR, including single men through “gestational carriers.”

The panel, chaired by University of Waterloo president David Johnston, was initiated by the McGuinty government in June 2008 under Minister of Children and Youth Services Deb Matthews.

With the stated intention of finding solutions for people who are struggling to begin or grow their family, the Ministry mandated the panel to recommend ways of making both fertility treatment and adoption more accessible and affordable to Ontarians.

The panel’s report included a range of proposals to improve Ontario’s adoption system so as to help children join welcoming families more quickly. While perhaps generally uncontroversial, they advocate in one recommendation, predictably, that the government work to ensure that “sexual orientation and family structure are not barriers to the timely adoption of children” (78).

Regarding AR, the panel proposes that the province cover up to three rounds of IVF treatment for women up to 42 years, estimated at $10,000 per cycle. Currently, Ontario only covers IVF for women with both fallopian tubes either blocked or missing.

While such a scheme would seem to impose an immense strain on the health system, the panel, in fact, argues that their plan will be cheaper in the long run. By subsidizing the treatment and normalizing AR through a government-run clinic accreditation process, they say, couples will no longer feel compelled to implant as many embryos, so there will be a reduction in multiple births, and a corresponding reduction in expensive complications.

In making their recommendations, the panel completely bypasses the health risks associated with AR, while at the same time acknowledging them.

“Assisted reproduction has been shown to be safe for women and their children” (101), they write. Shortly thereafter, however, they contradict this statement, admitting that “Canada and Ontario have not consistently followed children born through assisted reproduction to assess the impact of the procedures on their long-term health and well-being” (101).

Research has shown that babies born from IVF have a much higher chance of birth defects, including heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities. Earlier this year, the British government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority warned that IVF babies have a 30% higher risk of genetic abnormality.

The panel’s report, while purported to promote family life in Ontario, manifests a shockingly cold, technocratic, and consumeristic attitude toward integral family relationships and life from its earliest stages.

Advocating ‘third party reproduction’, the panel strongly criticizes the federal Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA), which prevents the commercialization of human reproduction by not allowing people to pay for a surrogate mother or for sperm, eggs, or embryos. While the Act has been criticized strongly from the other side by pro-life advocates, the panel contends that “the AHRA fails to measure up” (130), pointing out that the commercial market has simply gone ‘underground’.

“As currently defined, the AHRA’s criminal sanctions and prohibitions on third party reproduction serve not only to severely limit the options of Ontarians seeking to create a family,” they write, “but force this segment of the community to turn to prohibitively expensive, unethical and/or dangerous alternatives.”

Further, according to the panel, AR should not be limited strictly to truly and traditionally married couples, but should be opened to all, whether married, single, or in a same-sex relationship. “Single women need access to donor sperm,” they say, “and single men need donor eggs and a gestational carrier” (133).

“Huh? Gestational carrier?” asks the Toronto Sun’s Christina Blizzard. “You may remember her. You probably called your gestational carrier ‘mom.’ But those were the bad old days when all it took were mom and dad and a nice bottle of wine to create a child.”

In the brave new AR world envisioned by Ontario’s ‘experts’, the woman who nurtures the child in her womb is no longer named with personal dignity according to her bond with the child, but according to her function as a sort of transitory container.

The panel goes on to say that the government should require and fund the freezing of embryos, because “the use of frozen embryos will reduce costs” (116). “It costs a lot less to freeze and store good embryos, then thaw and transfer them, than it does for a fresh IVF cycle,” they explain. “Women with extra, good quality frozen embryos should be required to have up to two frozen embryo transfers before the system will pay for another fresh IVF cycle. All clinics would be expected to follow evidence-based guidelines on how to identify good quality embryos that would be eligible for freezing and transfer” (116).

This McGuinty government-sponsored report is evidence of what the Catholic Church and numerous bioethicists have long warned – that AR reduces the newly-formed human life, the embryo, to the status of a commodity. In their June 2008 instruction Dignitatis Personae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) condemned artificial reproduction, and insisted that the cryogenic freezing of human embryos is incompatible with human dignity.

“The ChurchâEUR¦holds that it is ethically unacceptable,” they wrote, “to dissociate procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act: human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution” (16).

The high number of abortions that result from IVF, they indicate, points out how “the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedureâEUR¦leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being” (16).

The CDF insisted, further, that the cryogenic freezing of human embryos is incompatible with human dignity. “Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos,” they wrote. “It presupposes their production in vitro; it exposes them to the serious risk of death or physical harm, since a high percentage does not survive the process of freezing and thawing; it deprives them at least temporarily of maternal reception and gestation; it places them in a situation in which they are susceptible to further offense and manipulation” (18).

“The majority of embryos that are not used remain ‘orphans’,” they continued. “Their parents do not ask for them and at times all trace of the parents is lost. This is why there are thousands upon thousands of frozen embryos in almost all countries where in vitro fertilization takes place” (18).

To contact Members of the Legislature

To contact the Minister of Children and Youth Services:

Ministry of Children and Youth Services
ServiceOntario INFOline
M-1B114, Macdonald Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1N3

Telephone Toll Free: 1-866-821-7770
Fax: 416-212-1977
E-mail: [email protected]

See related coverage:
U.K. Embryo Authority Warns IVF Children Have 30% Higher Risk of Genetic Abnormality