Monday, May 21, 2012

Our New Bigotry

For a nation whose founding document declares that “all men are created equal,” the U.S. has seen a whole lot of inequality, usually raising its ugly head in the form of discrimination and prejudice against particular minorities. We’ve even seen the widespread legalization of the most degrading prejudice: human beings transacting the trade of other human beings, treating real persons like commodities, something you can obtain if you want and dispose of at your will.

If you think I’m talking about slavery in the South before the Civil War, think again. I’m referring to something that happened earlier this very month.  According to, Kevin and Deb McCrea from Iowa had more kids than they wanted—because through the use of In Vitro Fertilization, they had 18 extra embryos. So Deb found new parents for them . . . on Craigslist. Through the public, online market, she located couples who wanted to have kids, and sent her children to be born and raised through other women.  Deb felt she couldn’t sign off her own embryonic offspring to “just anyone.” “I don’t want to give up that right to see pictures of that child and compare that child to ours,” she said, “And see what they would have looked like and if they’re healthy and happy.”

Even though she just gave all 18 away, Deb wants to keep an eye on her other kids raised through surrogate mothers, because she feels she has a “right” to do so. But the poor woman’s words clearly indicate that she has a warped sense of what constitutes responsible parenthood; she doesn’t seem to understand that “rights” only come with “duties.” Although she must have known, when she paid for a whole batch of embryos through IVF, that she would never fulfill her natural duty to raise the children, she still wants the sense of fulfillment that comes from watching them grow.  

On the one hand, Mrs. McCrea’s desire to find loving homes for the children is somewhat understandable. Yet, unlike when a naturally-conceived child is put up for adoption because it’s parents can’t care for it, the very need for these kids to have parents and homes is purely a result of man’s scientific blunderings in God’s exclusive creation-zone. Situations such as these should never arise in the first place; yet with IVF, kids without parents who want or are able to raise them are made by the dozens in a petri dish. Deb McCrea’s search for new parents for her kids is not like an unwed mother putting her child up for adoption; it’s the moral equivalent of a woman naturally giving birth to as many kids as she possibly can, only then to decide she doesn’t want them and giving them all away.

Deb says she plans someday to tell the children the truth; it boggles the imagination to know what it will be for them to learn that they were the extra ones; that their biological parents chose to make them all, but wanted just one or two of them; that they chose a sibling from the same “batch,” while the others were the leftovers whose coincidental existence wasn’t important enough—or convenient enough—to merit a life lived with their rightful home and family.

Cases like the McCrea’s are stunning examples of what is so disturbingly wrong about IVF: it encourages a mentality of irresponsible parenting under the pseudonym of compassionate solutions for couples who are having trouble conceiving. Because they want a baby, IVF advocates essentially argue, couples should be allowed to create as many children as they want and then pick a few to live, so that they can fulfill their desire for parenthood. The rest of the kids, meanwhile, are given away or remain permanently frozen in storage.

The use of IVF treats children like a product—in the way that a puppy is a product to a breeder: a cute product, a product people get emotionally attached to, but a product all the same. They reduce a real, little person to a commodity, something parents can pay money to get when they want, and dispose of as they choose to, as the McCreas have done with their “extra” kids. But children aren’t puppies; they are persons, whose value is not based on the fulfillment their parents get from seeing them grow up.

“Human beings as a commodity?” I heard someone exclaim when they read about this, “I thought that went out with the Civil War!” But it hasn’t.  IVF is a new kind of bigotry that has become legally accepted in the US—a new legal sale of human beings like products, without respect for their personhood. Just as slavery was rooted in and perpetuated bigotry against blacks, IVF is steeped in a discrimination against embryonic human babies—because it creates many at once, and arbitrarily chooses which ones of the siblings will live with their parents, or live at all, and which ones don’t.  In the same way that the slave trade in the South was based on a denial of the rights and dignities of blacks, the selection process of IVF is based on a denial of the rights and dignity of human babies.

They say times have changed; and they have. Back in the day, you had to be Catholic, or black, or Jewish, to be the object of someone’s bigotry and discrimination. Now? Well, now, you just have to be an unborn human baby.

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