Does IVF turn children into consumer products to be bought and sold?

Have we truly forgotten that children are not handbags?

Infertility can be one of the most heartbreaking trials a couple undergo. Wanting to bear your own children is a desire felt by the vast majority of mankind, so when someone is unsuccessful in becoming pregnant, the natural reaction is to find a way to do so using the medical advances available today. One of those is in-vitro fertilization (IVF). And while there are many ethical concerns surrounding IVF, one in particular troubles me: the fact that IVF turns children into designer products to be engineered and sold – and then discarded, if they’re found to be “defective” in some way.

A perfect example is a couple who are angry that they underwent IVF and ended up with twins. Their story in the Huffington Post is similar to many other couples: they already had one child and wanted another. They tried to get pregnant for two years unsuccessfully, and then they tried artificial insemination. When that didn’t work, they decided to try IVF. Not unusually, they chose to implant two embryos, as it gave them a better chance of one taking. They were hoping for a girl, but, shockingly, they ended up with twin boys. You would think that they might have considered and accepted the possibility of twins beforehand…but apparently not.

As horrible as this might sound, we found ourselves wishing these twins away. We considered a reduction for about 30 seconds. (That’s essentially an abortion of one twin, not both.) If you thought that IVF involved playing God, a reduction felt beyond brazen — Machiavellian, even. Give us a reason, we thought, as we had the twins tested for genetic anomalies. None came.

Ah, yes. The heartbreak of knowing that your child doesn’t possess a genetic anomaly which could then allow you to kill him guilt-free. Meanwhile, their attitudes towards their children don’t sound promising.

I’m trying not to be so bitter and to embrace what’s ahead of us. It’s possible these kids will sleep at some point, I suppose. In the meantime, I’ve promised to stop referring to one of the boys as “extra” and have told my wife I will try to refrain from calling my first-born son “the free one.” With four months left to go, I’m not sure what stage we’re in at the moment — but it’s not acceptance. My wife and I even both privately admitted that we don’t like the new children, which is of course insane.

Their children aren’t even born yet, and because there’s one too many, they already don’t like them and give them dehumanizing nicknames.

What is troubling about this article isn’t that a couple is experiencing fear and anxiety over how they will handle raising twins as opposed to one child. Juggling multiple newborns is certainly not easy, and feeling some trepidation about how they will handle such a major life change is certainly normal. What makes this article so terrible is that this wasn’t a freak accident. It wasn’t something that miraculously happened – the couple chose this possibility. They knowingly implanted two embryos, knowing that twins could result from that. But because they didn’t get the single girl that they wanted, they considered killing one of the babies, and now they publicly talk about how they wish they weren’t there. (One can only hope that the children will never read this article.)

And this serves as the perfect example of how IVF can cause such problems. It turns babies from miracles into products to be designed and bought. Most disturbingly, it isn’t uncommon for parents to throw out the baby when the end result isn’t what they wanted. Selective reduction of twins – very often after undergoing IVF – is on the rise. Babies with Down syndrome are aborted after the couple goes through IVF. Because hey, when you’re shelling out thousands upon thousands of dollars for your little designer embryo, you should be able to get the spawn you want, right? And when you don’t, they’re completely disposable.

It’s hard to imagine that respect for life exists when parents are designing the babies they want, and then griping about – or worse, killing – their child when they don’t get the results they want. Have we truly forgotten that children are not handbags? They aren’t designer shoes or a personalized piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s. Children aren’t products to be bought and sold. They aren’t meant to be designed and engineered and tinkered with. But isn’t that what IVF is turning them into?

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