Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Katie Britt, R-Ala., announced Monday that they are introducing a bill that would ensure access to in vitro fertilization by amending the Social Security Act. Under their IVF Protection Act, any state that bans in vitro fertilization no longer will be eligible for federal Medicaid funding.

Cruz and Britt announced in an op-ed Sunday in The Wall Street Journal that their legislation would “protect both life and IVF.”

This is a popular rhetorical stance from the Republican Party as state and federal lawmakers scramble to prop up the fertility industry after the Alabama Supreme Court found a Mobile facility to be at fault for the wrongful deaths of five human embryos.

Is IVF Pro-Life?

Every life deserves to be protected and valued from the moment of fertilization. Circumstances of conception cannot and never will change that.

The child conceived in the loving embrace of their married parents, the child conceived in an unhealthy relationship, the child conceived in assault, and the child conceived in a lab are all of equal value.

I write that as someone with people in my life who were conceived in each of those scenarios. Each one of them is priceless, irreplaceable, and worthy of life.

Every life created by the fertility industry deserves to be protected. The fertility industry isn’t in the business of doing so. Instead, this industry is in the business of creating lives outside the only environment where they can survive.

Those lives are in peril from the moment they come into existence until they are safely transferred to their mother’s womb and given a chance at successful implantation.

The tragedy of the fertility industry is that a small minority gets that chance. Only about 2.3% of IVF embryos result in a live birth; research in the U.K. found that only 7% of embryos created via IVF are implanted. An American fertility doctor reported similar findings to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

This means that over 90% of the lives created by the fertility industry are discarded as waste, frozen and left indefinitely in storage, or experimented on and destroyed. Not only that, but the genetic screenings offered by the fertility industry allow couples to choose not to implant an embryo based on possible disability, or having the “wrong” sex, hair color, or eye color.

This is lethal discrimination of the same kind as the abortion industry’s ableist and sexist abortion practices.

If Cruz and Britt are serious about being pro-life, they must be willing to give an answer—do they believe that life begins at fertilization? If so, we must either assume that they are unaware of the reality of the fertility industry or that they are simply unwilling to provide equal protection to all human lives.

Is IVF Pro-Child?

Something isn’t pro-child simply because a child was born, nor even because a child was born to two individuals with a sincere desire to become parents. It is good and natural to desire parenthood, but that doesn’t justify every choice made to achieve it.  

Is in vitro fertilization pro-child for the 1.5 million human lives being cryogenically stored in the United States, with little to no hope of ever being implanted?

Is IVF pro-child for the children who lose one or both genetic parents in the process?

Each one of us, regardless of the home life in which we were raised, has a biological mother and father. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of 326,468 cycles—from ovarian stimulation to embryo transfer—24,040 relied on donor gametes.

That means 7.4% of IVF embryos lose access to one or both genetic parents. Another 4.7% of IVF cycles rely on a surrogate mother to carry the embryo.

The children born of these arrangements suffer the trauma of maternal separation for the sake of the adults involved. This is not “pro-child.”

Is IVF Pro-Family?

An important but overlooked fact in much of the conversation about in vitro fertilization since the Alabama ruling is that the court sided with the parents whose embryos were destroyed because of the lax practices of an unregulated industry.

Due to the negligence of the Center for Reproductive Medicine in the Mobile Infirmary, a patient was able to wander into what should have been a secure area, remove several embryos, and accidentally destroy them by dropping them.

Ordinarily, we would look at a court ruling in which the judges sided with the injured party and say that justice had been done. Yet lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have tripped over themselves to praise and protect the industry that was at fault.

The negligence on display in the Alabama IVF case isn’t the only instance of the fertility industry’s directly or indirectly causing the deaths of embryos entrusted to it by parents.

It is generous beyond reason to call an industry that causes this kind of heartache and disappointment “pro-family” and propose legislation that offers unconditional cover for self-regulated clinics.

Is IVF Pro-Woman?

Infertility is a tragedy and the heartache that it causes is felt by several million couples in the United States. It is a grief that is often invisible, silent, and misunderstood. The conditions that lead to infertility are often painful and significantly affect quality of life.

Unfortunately, many women who pursue fertility care get little help in addressing the root cause of their concerns. Instead, they are offered a risky procedure that doesn’t guarantee a pregnancy or a healthy live birth.

 Is it really pro-woman to offer them a procedure that circumvents, rather than addresses, their health?

What About ‘Good’ IVF?

It is true that not every couple who pursues in vitro fertilization creates more embryos than the couple expects to be able to use or discards embryos based on genetic screening results.

Yet it is important to remember that in the wake of the Alabama ruling, the board president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine said that no health care provider would be willing to perform IVF under this court decision.

In other words, the leader of the fertility industry expressed an unwillingness to continue in the practice if she had to be responsible for protecting the lives of the embryos she creates.

Pro-life, pro-child individuals who wish to engage in IVF must seriously consider their willingness to participate in an industry that relies on the destruction of human life.

Pro-life lawmakers such as Cruz and Britt need to reorder their priorities. The starting point for pro-life lawmakers isn’t to defend—and certainly not to subsidize—an industry that recklessly creates and destroys lives without regulation or accountability.

The fertility industry must be regulated. And if it can’t operate when regulated by laws and rules that respect children’s rights and dignity from the moment of fertilization, then the industry doesn’t deserve to be defended.

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