in vitro fertilization

The Pro Choice Crisis?

It's been interesting to watch the pro-choice movement over the years. Admittedly, I wasn't around to do much watching in the 1970s right after Roe v. Wade. However, it appears that the general perspective was that the unborn child, as I would refer to him or her, was considered little more than a blob of tissue pretty much until it was born and wanted. That belief has been shown to be fiction over time as science has proved what I've always known as a matter of my faith — that it's a human being much earlier than that, as in from conception. The first shift in discussing abortion that I recall started with the concept of viability. The earlier a baby could be born and survive, the more folks on all sides had to acknowledge that it must be more than a blob at some point, though defining that particular point was difficult for pro-aborts. Currently, this once-called blob can survive outside the womb at 21 weeks.

To make matters worse for the abortion movement, Time magazine and others started reporting on fetal surgery and how the unborn child would react to stimuli doctors used in the womb. Then GE launched the 4D ultrasound. Now, the non-biased viewer saw things a lot clearer than the black and white skeletal image to which people had grown accustomed.

These scientific advances have caused a change in dialogue (and a change in opinion?). Of late, one mostly hears groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL talk not in terms of who's in the womb, but in terms of the circumstances the woman faces that merit her taking of human life: the pregnant mom is in poverty, a victim of rape, wouldn't be able to complete her education, "health care." These are real situations and not ones to make light of. However, recent news is bringing to light other circumstances that result in abortion — sex selection and extra embryos.

Not long ago we reported on sex selective abortions. While most associate this problem with India or China's one-child policy (something Joe Biden "understands," see Lisa Graas at LiveAction Blog), the use of sex selection is alive and well in the U.S (see New York Times). Unlike the UK and other places where such a practice has been banned, here it is perfectly legal. It can be done through abortion or one can simply fly to Las Vegas and pay $20,000 to choose an embryo by gender to implant through in vitro fertilization. Even if one doesn't choose to implant a specific sex but implants multiple embryos, one can engage in "twin reduction." This is the process whereby IVF clients implant multiple embryos and when they thrive in the womb, the “parents” then choose one embryo to eliminate through abortion. Given two healthy babies, sex selection can be the basis for that decision. After all, according to Gallup, 45 percent of respondents would choose a boy if they could have only one child, a number nearly double those choosing a girl (27 percent cited no preference).

Couple this practice with recent news of a 95-percent-plus accurate blood test that determines the sex of an unborn child at seven weeks (at least seven-13 weeks earlier than the oft-used ultrasound method, see CBSNews.com), and you see where this is leading. Much like the 4D ultrasound, used only for high-risk pregnancies but available commercially, some in the medical community use this blood test to detect sex-related genetic disorders, but it also is available for purchase by customers of all stripes. In a largely meaningless gesture, the primary seller of the kit, Consumer Genetics, Inc., does require an agreement from purchasers stating that the purpose of testing is not sex selection before it processes the results.

Both "twin reduction" and "sex selection" do appear to be causing some heartburn among "pro-choicers (see William Saletan at Slate.com).When the movement was focused on a blob of tissue, no discussion of motivation was necessary. Since scientific advances have forced proponents of abortion to turn the discussion into a balance between the needs of the mother and the value of the unborn child, motivation becomes relevant. Is abortion acceptable under any and all circumstances? Should someone be able to create a child, implant it and then choose to extinguish its perfectly healthy life as a result of it being one more than was intended? Doesn't the fact that they consciously attempt to create a child prove it is a life? Is it acceptable to society that a woman may choose to get pregnant as frequently as she chooses and abort any number of times to get the desired "boy" result on the seven week blood test?

Interestingly enough, we may have discovered a point where feminism contradicts itself. Can feminism hold onto the view that a woman has a "right to choose" in all circumstances, even if it results in legalized inequality between sexes in the womb?

While this blood test tragically may increase abortion, it has potential fatal ramification for the "pro-choice" movement: This once-called blob of tissue now not only has a discernable heartbeat at six weeks, its sex can be determined at seven. Those defending abortion on demand continue to run headlong into the great words of Dr. Suess: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Ethics In The Lab: Family Foundation Releases New Policy Paper

Stem cell research has been at the center of one of the hottest debates in the 21st century where science and ethics have clashed. Additionally, many lab procedures flirt with the bounds of ethics and morality — cloning, genetic engineering, in vitro fertilization, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis to name just a few. Some scientists see new lab procedures as holding the answer to many of medicine's most difficult challenges. They see a future with the ability to clone, cure the most noxious of diseases — perhaps, even, the ability to achieve genetic perfection. But such a utopian vision dismisses the spiritual side of the equation, overriding it with the "absolutes" of science. This vision ignores the moral and ethical questions surrounding medical research:

What are the potential human costs of these so-called "advances in medicine and technology?"

Are some humans "disposable" if their destruction leads to medical advances?

As science moves into uncharted territory, Americans are caught between the hope it provides and the quickly fading morals that guard against sacrificing human life. Responding to these challenges, The Family Foundation has produced, Do No Harm: Ethics in the Laboratory, a new policy paper. In this paper, we address the oft-asked questions of

When does life begin?

Is embryonic stem cell research ethical?

Is in vitro fertilization a choice that respects life?

I encourage you to read Do No Harm as I believe you will find it instructive and enlightening. Click here to read the report in its entirety.

The Family Foundation has worked with pro-life allies for several years to educate the public and legislators on this important topic. We have successfully amended legislation that attempted to funnel your tax dollars into unethical research to ensure that Virginians are not forced to subsidize these questionable programs. There is still work to be done and too many politicians in Richmond are willing to waste our money on unethical and unproductive research. Our hope is that this paper will provide information to citizens, the media and elected officials they may not otherwise know.

To help us continue to produce research that produces policy papers such as Do No Harm and our previous papers, and to help us disseminate it to legislators, policy makers and the media, click here.

Who Are The “Parents” Of Your Child?

Kelly Decker, from Glen Allen in Henrico County, is the biological mother of a five-year-old girl. Kelly desires the ability to raise her daughter free from the interference of an unrelated third party. Reasonable, no? Unfortunately, Virginia law isn't so sure. Although the way in which Kelly's story came to be is unfortunate, her story is a chilling reminder of the growing threat facing parental rights. Kelly had dreamed for years of being a mother. Unmarried at 33, Kelly, while dating both men and women, began rounds of in vitro fertilization with an anonymous sperm donor. In 2002, Kelly began a same-sex dating relationship with Cathy McCarthey and, two years later, Kelly's artificial insemination was successful and she gave birth to a daughter. Although Cathy and Kelly shared no civil union or marriage, neither of which is recognized as legal in Virginia anyway, they bought a house and moved in together. Two years later, they broke up and Cathy eventually moved out. As far as Kelly was concerned, that was the end of her interaction with Cathy.

But two years after their breakup, Cathy filed suit in Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Court demanding either visitation rights or custody of Kelly's daughter, despite the fact that Kelly is the only parent listed on her daughter's birth certificate. Cathy stated that Kelly's daughter would suffer harm from their separation.

Legally, what constitutes a parent and, therefore, merits visitation? Along with biological parents, Virginia law recognizes adoptive parents, genetic parents, and surrogate parents. Some states, excluding Virginia, include "de facto parents." De facto parents are typically defined as someone who lives with the child at least two years and shares at least 50 percent of the care taking role. In 2008, the Virginia Court of Appeals heard Stadter v. Siperko (see opinion) — a case in which a woman claimed to be a de facto parent of her ex-girlfriend's child and thus demanded visitation rights. In this case, the women had planned the child's conception together and split the cost. Despite this fact, the judge ruled that the child did not suffer significant harm from separation from the nonbiological parent and visitation rights were denied (LifeSiteNews.com).

In a similar case, Damon v. York (see opinion), the Virginia Court of Appeals denied visitation rights to a woman who married her girlfriend, who already had a child, because Virginia did not recognize the marriage that took place in Canada (see Style Weekly). Kelly and Cathy's case is unique in that the two shared no legal relationship, Kelly's name was the only parent listed on her daughter's birth certificate, Cathy never adopted Kelly's daughter, and Cathy did not share in the planning or cost of Kelly's conception.

Unfortunately, for Kelly and her daughter, in January 2010, a judge ruled that Cathy did indeed have standing to request visitation rights. The judge relied on a portion of Virginia law that reads:

In any case involving the custody or visitation of a child, the court may award custody to any party with a legitimate interest. ... "legitimate interest" shall be broadly construed to accommodate the best interest of the child.

By moving in with Cathy, Kelly — as determined by the judge — gave Cathy a "legitimate interest" in seeking visitation rights with her daughter. Even though the judge has not yet ruled on visitation, Kelly's daughter was scheduled to meet with Cathy and a counselor to "begin the possible re-unification process."

While Kelly's story is riddled with unfortunate choices and difficult issues, this struggle is ultimately about parental rights. Kelly, as the biological mother of her child, is fighting for the right to make decisions that are best for her child without unwelcome intrusion from unrelated third parties and activist judges. Courts should not allow for the usurpation of a biological (or adoptive) and fit parent's decisions, no matter what we may think of those decisions.

If the judge in Kelly's case rules against her, imagine what that could mean for a single mother who invites a babysitter or roommate into her home. Conceivably, the babysitter or roommate could claim "legitimate interest" in visitation rights, or worse, custody of the child. While there is strong precedent in Virginia due to Stadter v. Siperko and Damon v. York, Virginia's "legitimate interest" law is entirely too broad. Changes must be made to increase the protection of parental rights in Virginia.

Oppose Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research And Funding!

It's bad enough President Barack Obama wants to take away medical professionals' conscience protections to refuse to participate in procedures antithetical to their beliefs and values. Now, his administration is making it open season on embryos and some radicals in Congress want to go further. Here's the situation: No doubt you know of the president's executive order (see here) in early March to remove the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research put in place by former President George W. Bush — even though it flies in the face of recent medical breakthroughs (see here) and expert opinion, as we saw this week on his friend Oprah's show (see here).

Still, the National Institute of Health has published draft guidelines to carry out the directive, which would allow the use of federal funds for stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos (unlike state funding, see here).

However, the public has a chance to be heard! As with the medical professionals' conscience protections rules, there is a public comment period. It ends Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Hundreds of you e-mailed your comments to Washington regarding the conscience protections debate when we asked you and we need you to do so again — and spread the word!

It's easy to send your comments. Our friends at the Virginia Catholic Conference today sent an alert explaining that the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment has set up a Web page with information on the issue and an e-mail system allowing you to express to your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators your opposition to the use of your tax money for the destruction of embryos for stem cell research. Click here for the NCHLA Web site.

But that's not all: The Catholic Conference informs us that:

". . . some members of Congress have already stated a desire to move forward with legislation in favor of an even broader policy that would encourage the deliberate use of in vitro fertilization or cloning to produce human embryos for stem cell research."  

Not only is it horrible to contemplate government destroying life, but encouraging the harvesting of it for destructive research and using our hard-earned tax dollars to do so! If this research was so compelling, so likely to provide cures, private money by investors hoping to profit would fly into the equation. After all, there's a lot of money to be made on patents for cures and treatments.

The president and the hard left love to proclaim that we should follow the science and not the politics on this issue. As usual, it is the left purposefully twisting the argument because it is they who refuse to acknowledge the science that has produced 70-plus treatments and cures via adult stem cell research and zero from destroying embryos.