Human Exceptionalism

Big Fertility’s Dark Side

The IVF industry–Big Fertility–is no different than Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Biotech, and Big Defense. It provides a product–in this case, a baby–for big bucks. It expands markets and technologies–egg buying, commercial surrogacy, selling extra embryos, etc.–advertises, and fights the political wars with high paid lobbyists in Washington DC and state and foreign capitals like any other industry.

Big Fertility has a very dark side often not explored in the media. Women have had their health and fertility destroyed selling eggs. Poor surrogate mothers–now dehumanized as “gestational carriers–rent their maternal capacities to nurture a child in the womb and then have it taken regardless of attachments that might have been formed. Excess embryos are treated as no more meaningful than caviar. Big Fertility has also helped create a destructive view that people not only have a right to a child, but to the child they want.

Most clients of Big Fertility don’t actually achieve their dream. This is the subject of an op/ed in the NYT by two women with painful experience in the field. From, ”Selling the Fantasy of Fertility” by Miriam Zoll and Pamela Tsigdinos:

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology reports that, on average, of the 1.5 million assisted reproductive cycles performed worldwide, only 350,000 resulted in the birth of a child. That is a 77 percent global failure rate. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the overall failure rate at almost 70 percent.

Yet, there is little discussion of the impact or consequences of this aspect of the quest to have a baby through artificial means:

Behind those failed cycles are millions of women and men who have engaged in a debilitating, Sisyphus-like battle with themselves and their infertility, involving daily injections, drugs, hormones, countless blood tests and other procedures. Big Fertility uses the desperation of want-to-be parents to gain market share: But what they’re selling is packaged in hope and sold to customers who are at their wits’ end, desperate and vulnerable. Once inside the surreal world of reproductive medicine, there is no obvious off-ramp; you keep at it as long as your bank account, health insurance or sanity holds out.

It’s no wonder that, fueled by magical thinking, the glorification of parenthood and a cultural narrative that relentlessly endorses assisted reproductive technology, those of us going through treatments often turn into “fertility junkies.” Even among the patient-led infertility community, the prevailing belief is that those who walk away from treatments without a baby are simply not strong enough to run the gantlet of artificial conception. Those who quit are, in a word, weak.

This leads to real world consequences:

Those contemplating treatments have a right to know about the health risks, ethical concerns, broken marriages and, for many, deep depression often associated with failed treatments. They need objective, independent advice from health care and mental health professionals focused on the person’s well-being instead of the profit. Being unable to bear children is a painful enough burden to carry, without society’s shaming and condemning those who recognize that their fertility fantasy is over. It is time to rein in the hype and take a more realistic look at the taboos and myths surrounding infertility and science’s ability to “cure” it.

Sigh. Yes, there is joy. but also so much pain–and not only for want-to-be parents who can’t conceive. Think of the yearning of parentless children desperate to be adopted and loved.  

 

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular

White House

The Problem Isn’t Just the GOP, Mr. Comey

During a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, James Comey alleged that the Republican party allows President Trump to get away with making inappropriate statements without holding him accountable. “If the Republicans, if they just close their eyes and imagine Barack Obama waking up in the morning saying someone ... Read More
Law & the Courts

‘Judges for the #Resistance’

At Politico, I wrote today about the judiciary’s activism against Trump on immigration: There is a lawlessness rampant in the land, but it isn’t emanating from the Trump administration. The source is the federal judges who are making a mockery of their profession by twisting the law to block the Trump ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Friendships Are America’s Asset

The stale, clichéd conceptions of Donald Trump held by both Left and Right — a man either utterly useless or only rigidly, transactionally tolerable — conceal the fact that the president does possess redeeming talents that are uniquely his, and deserve praise on their own merit. One is personal friendliness ... Read More
U.S.

Columbia 1968: Another Untold Story

Fifty years ago this week, Columbia students riding the combined wave of the civil-rights and anti-war movements went on strike, occupied buildings across campus, and shut the university down. As you revisit that episode of the larger drama that was the annus horribilis 1968, bear in mind that the past isn’t ... Read More
Culture

Only the Strident Survive

‘I am not prone to anxiety,” historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Times of London on April 22. “Last week, however, for the first time since I went through the emotional trauma of divorce, I experienced an uncontrollable panic attack.” The cause? “A few intemperate emails, inadvertently forwarded ... Read More