I recently posted an opinion about a Person Hood Legislation Initiative in Mississippi that has yielded an interesting response regarding the “ethics” of creating embryos through IVF, and terminating them through abortion.
The response by Karen O’Connell, which I have posted section by section and will continue to address in subsequent posts, brings to light some interesting perceptions, and in my opinion, misconceptions about IVF that I would like to address section by section.
Here is the first paragraph from Ms. O’Connell’s response–the entire response is in the comments section of the last article.
I think your perspective is interesting in the issue of the beginning of life.
In fact, in this article I gave you below in part 2 of “the first stage of St-IVF”, they state that they first grow embryos and only cryopreserve the ones that survive to an adequate stage of development (meaning some don’t survive that long and are discarded). Then they use an ultra-rapid cryopreservation that results in some percentage (less than 10) of the frozen embryos being lost. Then they decide which of the remaining “surviving embryos” have good genomes and discard those that have incorrect numbers of chromosomes. They discard those embryos that don’t have the correct number of chromosomes. They’ve now gone through 3 rounds of ‘discarding’ embryos. If you believe that each embryo is a life, a lot of life has now been lost.
The first thing that interests me is the selective way she paraphrases the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine content to fit her argument that “a lot of life has now been lost” through what she characterizes as rounds of selective embryo discarding.
But before I get to that, I have to note that she leaves out the entire explanation for the embryo selection process, which is to increase the success rate per embryo and allow fewer embryos to be transferred, meaning less possibility of multiple births (which also assures a “safer” pregnancy for the woman). It also reduces the most common causes of miscarriage in early pregnancy which is the most common cause of early pregnancy loss–another health benefit to the woman that increases the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Taking a look at the website article she references reveals the reality that “Round 1” doesn’t involve any discarding of embryos, only an analysis of the DNA to ensure there are no anomalies that could result in an early miscarriage. She points out that the embryos have to survive to an adequate stage of development or they are discarded. This is confusing—if they don’t survive to an adequate stage of development, then what would she have the doctors do with them? They would not be discarding life; they would discarding cells that are no longer alive.
In Round 2, Ms. O’Connell leaves out the fact that the vitrification (freezing) process actually results in a loss of less than 10% of the blastocyst embryos, which means that the survival rate is much higher than “traditional” freezing. If they do not survive the freeze it would seem then that there was no life in these embryos to be discarded.
That leaves us with Round 3, which is the chromosomal analysis, and here I can see where Ms. O’Connell could rationalize that life is “discarded”, due to chromosomal anomalies that might include Down’s Syndrome.
My wife and I were told during our cycle that we had several “cover of blastocyst embryo” magazine quality embryos during the course of the fresh IVF cycles we did. The only problem is those embryos did not make it. Our fresh IVFs resulted in the biggest fat negatives of our BFN experiences.
We were given the option to discard the “low quality” embryos on our last cycle (we did not want nor did we ask for the chromosomal analysis), but absolutely refused to, believing that perhaps the rating scale that had failed us for nearly 6 years up to that point had some flaws.
One of the “poor quality” embryos we ultimately thawed out just turned 9, is thriving in school, is performing in her second year of The Nutcracker, and provides us with the exhaustion and miracle of life as a parent.
The most glaring problem with Ms. O’Connell’s argument is her statement that “if you believe that each embryo is a life, a lot of life has now been lost”.
Each embryo is a “potential” life to a fertility patient, and to medical science.
Even in the best fertility clinic in the country, ½ the time the embryo will not implant and gestate for 9 months. The media uses the word “implant” incorrectly constantly when referring to the actual medical process of “transferring” the embryos. Whether they actually “implant” is beyond the control of all of the advanced science fertility clinics have to offer.
The embryo still has to find its way into a spot in the uterus with the perfect mix of hormones and environmental magic to find its roots and then hopefully grow strong enough to emit a strong hormone signaling “I’m here” when the blood beta test is done.
Next Ms. O’Connell says:
Due to this process, I think it is strange you don’t see the connection between Initiative 26 and IVF. You say:
“I see nothing in the language of these bills that in any way states that medically necessary in vitro fertilization techniques are threatened. I’ve discussed this issue with numerous public relations people at various organizations who have asked me to comment on this issue, and the only response I got did not relate to family building through IVF.”
In the process of IVF, they fertilize MANY embryos and discard MANY embryos. If Initiative 26 passes, then each fertilized egg in Mississippi would be constitutionally considered a person and would have the same rights that any other citizen has. Therefore if the amendment is passed, discarding a fertilized egg because it has an abnormal number of chromosomes would be just as large of a crime as killing someone with Downs Syndrome or Fragile X syndrome (fully grown) with an abnormal number of chromosomes.
This statement seems like another selective stretch. Ms. O’Connell does not quantify “MANY” except to capitalize it for dramatic effect. She refers only to the fertilized embryos with chromosomal abnormalities, but gives no research indicating how many of these embryos are actually identified, much less discarded, nor does she indicate how many of them scientifically would even result in a successful pregnancy. I’m quite sure the Sher Institute she is quoting from could provide her with actual statistics.
Granted, the mere fact that ANY chromosomally abnormal embryo is discarded might provide fodder for an extreme right to life group to make all medically assisted embryo creation illegal, but they would have to be willing to take the risk of offending 8 million couples who are willing to go to extreme lengths to bring life into this world. Given how strong the abortion lobby is, I rather doubt they would want to alienate such a strong “family building” population by making their parenthood pursuits illegal.
Part II, will cover Ms. O’Connell’s statement that “Ethically separating IVF from abortion if problematic”.
The statement is so remarkable on its own, that it deserves a post all its own.