The new Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) have allowed the creation of brave new families. Whereas earlier it took a man and a woman to produce a child, now there are all sorts of combinations available. A child can be manufactured with any number of players involved.
Indeed, a child can have three, four, five, or six different “parents” involved in his or her creation. And sadly, a child can have no parent – at least no actual biological parent to grow up with. Or quite often it is just one biological parent. Thus the child is robbed of the most important right he or she can ever have – to be born in and raised by a biological mother and father.
In the past it was seen as a tragedy if this occurred. If an accident took place, or a parent died or deserted, societies did all they could to remedy the situation. Adoption for example was meant to help the abandoned or orphaned child to come into as close a two-parent family as possible.
Through no fault of their own, many people found themselves being single parents. Thus unfortunate situations were dealt with as best they could be to look after the child. But today we deliberately are bringing children into the world knowing they will not have their own mum and dad.
Given the overwhelming research we have on the importance of a mother and a father in a child’s development, such deliberately chosen social experiments are in fact a type of child neglect, if not abuse. And this is happening more and more often with ART.
Consider this recent story of how IVF is resulting in a swelling of intentional single-parent households. Single women are increasingly using IVF to have children. One recent news item puts it this way:
“Single women are flocking to IVF centres to have babies solo as it becomes more socially acceptable for women to forego the wait for a perfect partner. Data from two of Melbourne's biggest fertility clinics shows that since the January 2010 introduction of legislation giving single women access to IVF treatment, more of them are taking up the option.
“‘Many single women who feel their biological clock is ticking by and have not found Mr Right, or even Mr Not Too Bad, are now opting to use donor sperm,’ said Monash IVF international medical director Prof Gab Kovacs. Monash IVF alone has treated 418 single women since 2010, with the number of IVF cycles up from 323 in 2010 to 469 in 2011, and the clinic has already performed 353 cycles so far this year.
“The most common age for single women seeking treatment at Monash IVF is 40. Another provider, Melbourne IVF, said there was a sharp rise in single women seeking treatment in 2010, followed by a 15-20 per cent increase in 2011, while 2012 is on track for a similar rise.”
Bear in mind that IVF was originally designed to help medically (physically) infertile women who were married to have children. In Victoria for example the Infertility Medical Procedures Act (1984) stated that only married couples could have access to IVF. In 1995 that was amended to include de facto couples. In 2000 a landmark court case in effect struck down that law (and other state laws) by saying it violated the federal Sex Discrimination Act (1984) by banning single women and lesbians. In April 2002 a High Court ruling threw out an appeal to that ruling.
These Federal rulings have in effect made state legislation on the issue null and void, and the door was opened for women who may be physically fertile to still get access to IVF for psychological or social reasons. In Victoria for example, the Premier said the state would be legally bound to let lesbians and singles receive fertility treatment for psychological reasons.
The strange new world implications of all of this just continue to spiral out of control. Consider one not uncommon case of a lesbian couple in England who conceived using sperm bought on the internet. Here we have men reduced to sperm donors, children raised with two mums, and the family unit further disintegrating.
Thus a new concept, “social infertility,” or “psychological infertility,” has been introduced into the debate. Women who simply do not like to have relationships with men, instead of just those with a genuine physical infertility, are now able to have access to taxpayer-funded IVF.
While some judges and social engineers may applaud such radical changes, the vast majority of Australians do not. A newspaper vote-line, asking the question, “Should the Federal Government legislate to overturn the high court ruling to give single women and lesbians access to IVF?” received over 4000 calls. A whopping 84 percent (3693 callers) answered “yes” to the question. An earlier vote-line with a similar question recorded a similar result: “Do you support taxpayer-funded IVF for ‘psychologically infertile’ women?” Only 10 per cent of the callers said “yes” (337 people), while a massive 90 per cent (3029 voters) said “no”.
A Morgan poll also found that a majority of Australians did not want singles and lesbians getting access to IVF technology. It found that 54 percent of people disapproved of single women having access to sperm banks, and 59 percent disapproved of lesbians doing the same.
The new technologies, aided and abetted by social engineers and activist judges, have all conspired to undermine the notions of marriage and family. Any and all combinations of procreation are now possible, and a major rationale for marriage and family is being undermined.
This is all due to the radical divorce of sexuality from procreation. As bioethicist Nigel Cameron remarks, “When the history of the twentieth century comes to be written, this divorce will surely rate among the most significant achievements of our age – a result of the problematic marriage of technology and human values according to the deleterious assumptions of the closing years of the second millennium.”
And this divorce not only weakens marriage and family, but it dehumanises as well. Leading American ethicist Leon Kass puts it this way: “No more begetting or generating, procreating or even reproducing: just plain producing or making, the attempt to supplant nature with rationality in the very mystery of life, all in the service of producing only wanted, willed, and flawless babies. The new reproduction shifts increasingly from home to laboratory, where it is transformed into manufacture. To repeat, increasing control over the product can only be purchased by increasing depersonalization of the process.”
Consider these examples.
A number of fertility clinics have admitted that fathers are donating sperm to their infertile sons to help them have children. Just how will the child feel as a result of such a union? And in England a woman has given birth to her own grandchildren. Her daughter had IVF treatment, and used her mother as a surrogate, by having the embryos implanted in her, and had twins through her. Talk about strained relations!
And in another bizarre IVF case in Britain, a set of twins born via IVF have 3 mothers and 2 fathers. One of the three mothers is their grandmother, who has delivered her own grandchildren. As I said, all sort of combinations and permutations are now possible.
This may be nice for adults and their wants. But what about the well-being of the children so conceived? Have they no rights to be considered? Is their need for a biological mum and dad not important? It seems not in today’s world of selfish adults, social engineering, and a growing disregard for children.
Bill Muehlenberg is a lecturer in ethics and philosophy at several Melbourne theological colleges and a PhD candidate at Deakin University.