Two decades ago, Dr. Elaine Meyer and her husband Dr. Barry Prizant had suffered three miscarriages when they turned to Women & Infants in Providence, Rhode Island, for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments to help them have a baby. They created 18 embryos but were only able to give birth to one child. None of the other embryos survived — or so they thought. Nearly 20 years later, their lives were upended by letters from the hospital requesting payment for embryo storage… and they weren’t the only ones. Their story, told by The New York Times, exposes the suffering created by the use of IVF and the largely unaccountable billion-dollar fertility industry.
Two sides of the same coin
According to Yahoo Finance, the global fertility market size is expected to hit an astounding $47.9 billion by 2030. It’s a business, which much like the abortion industry, preys on the deepest emotions that human beings have — their feelings surrounding children and parenthood. Planned Parenthood alone is a million dollar abortion business, boasting a gross profit of nearly $245 million in 2017 and $110 million in 2018.
Both the abortion and fertility industries masquerade as health care, and both treat children as property.
Both expect women and couples to buy into the idea that embryos are not actual children. But the emotions surrounding IVF and abortion tell a different story that points to the obvious. Human embryos are human children. They aren’t “potential life.” They are the beginning stages of every new human life — the first weeks of a human being’s journey in this world.
The fertility industry and the abortion industry are two sides of the same coin — people attempting to play God with the lives of human beings.
“A constant state of grief”
Pro-lifers are already aware that abortion leaves women traumatized and at a higher risk of depression, drug use, alcohol abuse, and suicide. But what about IVF? According to Penn Medicine, there is only a 21.3% success rate with IVF for women younger than age 35. That success rate drops as women age beyond 35.
But that low success rate centers on one child reaching full term. For each of those children, there are countless others who don’t survive. In fact, more than 1.7 million embryos have been discarded and there are an estimated one million still frozen. And the parents are sometimes distraught at what to do with these once-longed-for babies.
Dr. Meyer and Dr. Prizant were heartbroken that they wouldn’t be able to have more biological children. Dr. Meyer was very much emotionally attached to her children — frozen in stasis — even driving by the hospital and singing lullabies to them. After learning that their embryos had apparently died, her husband said he was emotionally drained. “It sets you in a constant state of grief,” he said of the IVF process. Still, they moved forward with their lives, grateful for their son Noah.
Fast forward to 2017, when two letters arrived in the mail from Women & Infants, each requesting $500 to keep their embryos frozen. The couple was confused, and then upon further investigation, they were devastated. Much to their shock, they learned that two of their embryos were still frozen all of these years. They had fallen to the bottom of the tank, overlooked and forgotten. And in their file was a handwritten note stating, “2 missing.” The children they had longed for and loved were lost, and no one told them or tried to find them.
“These are not two cans of peaches on the shelf at a Stop & Shop,” said Dr. David Keefe, the director of the hospital’s division of reproductive medicine and the couple’s doctor at the time. He said he was never informed of the missing embryos. “They are much more like two kids on a playground. When you’re responsible for them and they’re lost, you notify the people who care about them the most and tell them all you can.”
Dr. Meyer said that all of the feelings she had when she suffered miscarriages came flooding back: “powerful feelings of sadness, shame and grief.”
“As parents who cherished children, we would NOT have forgotten that our embryos were missing,” they said. “We would not have rested until they were found and cared for.”
Why is IVF immoral?
No matter the circumstances of his or her conception, every child is precious, valuable, and worthy of life. To be pro-life is to value every human life, and that includes the lives of the people created through IVF but also those destroyed by IVF or perpetually frozen in IVF clinics. Pro-lifers do not believe that people created through IVF are any less human or worthy of life than those who were conceived naturally; we simply believe that their siblings, destroyed or left frozen in time, are just as worthy of life and equally as valuable.
The circumstances of a human being’s conception does not change his or her value. If destroying an embryo through abortion is morally wrong, then destroying an embryo for not being perfect or wanted and freezing an embryo as a “leftover” because the parents don’t want him or her at that time are also morally wrong.
Sadly, sometimes when IVF results in a successful multiples pregnancy, doctors offer to ‘reduce’ the pregnancy (selective reduction) — aborting the very lives they created. This is highly unethical.
An embryo’s future
Currently, couples who have “leftover” embryos can have their embryos destroyed, donated to research, transferred to the mother’s uterus during a time in her cycle in which she is unlikely to become pregnant, or donated to other couples. Each of these is a continuation of the commodification of children that began when the first embryo was created.
Allowing other couples to adopt the embryos is the best option for those lives in limbo, because it allows the children a chance to live. Still, hundreds of thousands of children sit waiting, frozen, many of them abandoned by their parents in fertility clinics across the country.
Three lawsuits have been filed against the Women & Infants, including one from Dr. Meyer and Dr. Prizant, related to lost embryos. Lawsuits surrounding embryos have been filed across the country over the accidental implantation of embryos belonging to other parents, over who ‘owns’ the embryos when couples split up, and over lab equipment malfunctions that killed embryos.
As for Dr. Meyer’s and Dr. Prizant’s lost embryos, the hospital said they were compromised and the couple will likely bury them. “We need to allow our embryos to finally have some peace and rest,” Dr. Meyer said. “And we need to find some peace and rest ourselves.”
Though the fertility industry isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, there are better options than IVF to combat infertility. In the meantime, there must be more oversight of the fertility industry to help end the destruction of these young lives and prevent the tragedy that happened to Dr. Meyer and Dr. Prizant from happening to anyone else.