Just when you think that every imaginable dimension of the great tragedy of abortion has come to light, along comes a report that will stop you dead in your tracks. One of the most respected British newspapers has just revealed that approximately 80 abortions are performed in the UK each year, terminating pregnancies that came about by IVF treatments.
That’s right — on average, 80 British women each year abort their babies after having conceived them through the ordeal of IVF treatments. The British government, along with the British public, seems to be outraged at this discovery, made possible through the nation’s freedom of information rules. But, what is the basis of the outrage?
The Times [London] reported on June 6, 2010 that the discovery has shocked many in the medical community, but not all who are abortion providers. Professor Bill Ledger, a member of Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, pointed to the obvious: “These women can’t be surprised to be pregnant; you can’t have an IVF pregnancy by accident.”
Added to the scandal is the case that these abortions are classified as driven by “social” reasons. In other words, there is no medical issue at stake here. These are successful and healthy pregnancies that were sought by these women, even to the extent of seeking IVF treatments. Women who had sought such abortions after IVF told The Times that they decided after becoming pregnant that they just did not want to have the baby after all, that they terminated the relationship with their partner, or that the realization of impending motherhood was just too much.
Though there is a sense of outrage on the part of many in the public, it appears that much of the concern is financial, rather than moral. In its coverage of the scandal, The Times referred to the fact that “young women are having abortions on the NHS (National Health Service) after expensive IVF treatment.” In other words, the scandal is implied to be the waste of funds and the misuse of expensive and specialized high-tech fertility treatments.
Some observers responded to the report with no outrage at all. Ann Furedi, a prominent defender of abortion rights, told The Times, “Sometimes, it is only when women get pregnant that they can allow themselves to ask the question about whether it is really what they want.”
Come again? Ann Furedi appears to be saying that women need not even ask themselves if they really want to be mothers until they are actually pregnant. That assertion is about as morally shocking as can be imagined. Ms. Furedi also told the paper that she believes every abortion doctor sees at least one woman a year who seeks abortion after becoming pregnant through IVF technology.
Ann Widdecombe, a former Member of Parliament, said that women who abort after IVF treatments are treating babies as “designer goods.” On the other hand, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority insisted that it does not regulate abortions and sought to separate the IVF issue from the abortions in these cases. In an expression of classic bureaucratic banality, the HFEA said, “All patients who undergo IVF are assessed, as are the implications for any child that might be born, in advance of the decision to treat.”
Well, the “implications” for a significant number of these children are that they are killed in their mothers’ wombs.
What does this new scandal say about the human condition? In the first place, it tells us that we are turning ourselves into unabashed idolaters of the self. We are witnessing the elevation of personal autonomy, personal happiness, and personal fulfillment to levels that can only be described as idolatry. These women are seeking abortions just because they have decided they really do not want to be pregnant after all. Their concern is the solitary self above all.
Second, this scandal reminds us that the real issue here is the killing of innocent human life, and not the waste of expensive fertility treatments. The response to this report in some quarters is primarily about money, and not about the sanctity of human life. This fact alone should serve as a warning to us all.
Third, we must remember in light of this scandal that human dignity does not rest in any sense upon the circumstances of conception, but on the fact that every human being ever conceived is made in God’s image and is a life that is sacred and to be honored, protected, welcomed, and cherished. There are all too many women who conceive by natural means, only to make the decision to abort on the same basis as those described in this report. The scandal of the abortions sought after IVF treatments throws a dramatic light on the scandal of abortion itself. This new scandal just serves to make the murderous reality of abortion even more plain to see.
Americans should take note — we can be virtually assured that this scandal is present in this nation to a degree exceeding even what has been revealed in Britain. This nation lacks some of the protections and regulations found even in Britain. The United States is, as some foreign observers have noted, the “wild, wild West” of fertility treatments. Add to that fact the reality that women in the U.S. can demand an abortion for any reason or for no stated reason at all.
One might think that the most welcome place in the world for an unborn child would be the womb of a mother who would be so intent on getting pregnant that she would seek and undergo IVF fertility treatment. It turns out that in a significant number of cases, that assumption is proved wrong. How do we take the measure of that tragedy?
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Lois Rogers, “IVF Babies Aborted as Mothers Lose in Love,” The Times [London], Sunday, June 6, 2010.
Lois Rogers, “Scandal of Aborted IVF Babies,” The Times [London], Sunday, June 6, 2010.
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
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