Fonticulus Fides

Friday, July 16, 2004

Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we play with science to conceive...

This story is sad in a number of ways, and if you've been thinking that the Catholic Church is wrong to deny infertile couples the chance to use certain forms of "modern technology," you might want to read it thoroughly.

First off, the more people who are involved with an act of conception, the more potential for human error. In other words, if it's just one man and one woman trying to make a baby the regular way, it's just about impossible to make a mistake. Add in a doctor, a nurse, a few technicians and two other couples who are also doing the same fertility treatment at the exact same time, and you get situations like this one, in which the woman from Couple A was accidentally inseminated with the sperm that might have been provided by the man of either Couple B or Couple C (they're not quite sure which).

As if that's not bad enough, the clinic wanted a do-over, and the woman almost followed through. The lawyer from the clinic reports, '"Ms. H--- asked for and was given prescriptions to interrupt the insemination process...My client is terribly sorry that human error occurred and saddened that Ms. H--- decided not to take the medication she requested and was prescribed."

Need a translation for that? Ms. H-- initially asked for the "morning after pill" so she could force her body to shed the uterine lining and prevent any possible conception. The clinic was eager to help. She decided not to preferring to wait and see if the insemination worked at all, and also refused the doctor's encouragement to get an abortion after she did indeed turnup pregnant. -- after all, she's 40 years old and she's been trying to get pregnant for 5 years. This might be her only chance.

And if THAT wasn't bad enough, this woman is concerned that her fiance might leave her if the baby isn't is. From my objective standpoint, I should think she would be more concerned that he might leave her because he hasn't bothered to marry her yet, even though they've been trying to have a baby together for at least five years. But when you are in the thick of these things, it's often difficult to see the forest from the trees.

Of course, nobody has yet to think about what the child him/herself is going to think of this in the end. Supposing he/she is the child of Mr. Couple C, and supposing Mr. and Mrs. Couple C are never able to conceive. Maybe Mr. Couple C is going to want parental rights -- after all the baby is his, too, conceived the way he planned on conceiving a child, just with the "wrong" woman. Bam! Instant custody issues.

And has anybody bothered to think about what the child is going to think of his/her complicated/sad/frustrating/legally messed up conception?

Believe me, I am not trying to belittle the plight of infertile couples. We went through two years of infertility ourselves before Zooey. It was the absolute worst experience of my life. It strained each of us spiritually. It almost destroyed our marriage at one point. It's an awful, awful cross to bear.

But having lived through it and having been faced with all the decisions these new technologies put people through -- and all the risks -- I understand, appreciate and agree with the Catholic perspective on this. Which in a nutshell is that anything that helps a couple conceive a baby the usual way is good -- surgery, hormone treatments, etc. Everything else carries grave risks.



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