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Every show Mike asks a “question of the day.” Today’s question is: In general, do you think women are more objectified in our culture than they were 50 years ago, less objectified than 50 years ago, or about the same?
What do you think??
As if third party reproduction hasn’t confused the make-up of the family enough already, we now have grandmothers giving birth to their own grandchildren (and also, in some cases, freezing their OWN eggs for their infertile daughters to use later on in life!).
“The psychologists wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting into — that we were mentally prepared. Mostly, surrogacy contracts are with people you don’t know. It was weird to have a contract with my mom”
Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it. I mentioned this to a friend of mine recently and his initial reaction was, “gross!” Indeed.
Here is another such story out of my old hometown, Jefferson City, MO:
As troubling as this story is in general, it’s these words, specifically, from Dr. Gil Wilshire with Mid-Missouri Reproductive Medicine and Surgery in Columbia, MO that really got under my skin: “We need three things: a good egg, some good sperm and a good uterus. And we can mix and match these.”
Gross. I can’t even. This is the world we live in. The creation of new human life is nothing more than a biological formula — a science experiment, rather than the mysterious fruit of a loving act between husband and wife.
For most pro-life advocates, the main problem with IVF is the fact that so many human embryos are destroyed in the process. In fact, some have actually suggested that IVF would be ethical if we could ensure that it could be done without destroying or discarding any human embryos.
Our natural inclination as pro-lifers is to first be concerned with how life is being taken out of the world. I would submit, however, that we should be equally as concerned with how it’s being brought into the world as well.
There are many different acts through which children can be conceived (the marital embrace, rape, fornication, adultery, incest and various technical procedures) but only one way is in keeping with the dignity of the child. The Catechism explains:
Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ “right to become a father and a mother only through each other.” (CCC, 2376)
Taking the creation of life out of its natural, God-given context and moving it into the science lab seriously alters how many view the wonder and mystery of new life and how that new life should be treated.
The desire for children is right and good, but a child is not something owed to anyone; it is a gift. Consciously or unconsciously, to desire a child as the end result of a technological procedure instead of the fruit of marital love is to treat the child not as a person to love, but a product to obtain.
Womb transplants are in the news again and I have seen a few posts in the Catholic blogosphere questioning what such a transplant might mean, ethically.
First, some background: A womb transplant is exactly what it sounds like. Women who were either born without a uterus or have had their uterus removed after suffering cervical cancer have a presumably healthy, normally functioning uterus transplanted into them. These can come either from living or deceased donors. In 2012, doctors in Sweden performed the first “mother-daughter” uterus transplants.
Last April Derya Sert from Turkey became the first woman to have an embryo implanted into a transplanted womb from a deceased donor. By May it was reported that the pregnancy had been “terminated” because the baby’s heartbeat had stopped.
Now, an unidentified woman in Sweden has had an embryo implanted into her transplanted womb which was donated by her mother. This woman is one of nine who received a uterus transplant last year.
My good friend and BioTalk partner-in-crime, Rebecca Taylor, has covered this a few times before, if you’re interested:
Mother, Daughter Uterus Transplants
Woman With Uterus Transplant Confirmed Pregnant
The main problems that I see are:
a.) that women who have these transplants must necessarily use IVF, which the Church condemns, in order to even attempt to become pregnant — which is the sole purpose for the womb transplant.
b.) as Rebecca points out, the only way to test to see if such transplants are “successful” is to implant a human embryo and see whether it will develop to term without any complications or not. Making the child an experiment. Not part of an experiment, but THE actual experiment. Consider these words from the professor who lead the transplant team in Sweden:
“The best scenario is a baby in nine months…A success would be an important proof of principle that a procedure is now available to cure uterine infertility.”
c.) and, of course, there is the fact that both the donor and the potential mother’s lives are being put at risk for a non-life threatening condition. Even the most routine surgery is nothing to sneeze at. Add in the fact that it’s for something that is not life threatening and the risks of such a procedure almost surely outweigh the possible rewards.
Some have wondered whether the ethics would be different if scientists were able to attach the fallopian tubes and the women could conceive naturally. It might make for a slightly better scenario, but I think even in that case b and c above would still apply. A successful birth would still be the measure for whether or not such transplants are “successful”, so the child would still be an experiment. And it remains a great risk for a non-life threatening condition.
As Rebecca said with the first successful embryo implantation, now is the time to pray for the life of this child in Sweden. Pray that he or she is born healthy with no complications. It’s tempting to not want this kind of experimentation to succeed so that it doesn’t become more common in the future. But failure, in this case, means the death of a human being.
Chelsea, why are you always harping on IVF??
Because, after 35 years, IVF is still a vast experiment. An experiment on children, millions of whom pay for it with their lives. Even those who are lucky enough to have survived the process are paying for it in other ways: By having a greater risk of developing birth defects or spending their lives desperate to know where they came from, who they look like, whether they have any biological siblings and sometimes even why they’ve developed some genetic disease because they’ve had half of their identity deliberately withheld from them.
This is the ironic legacy of IVF: that couples are so desperate for a child to love and yet concern what’s good and right for the child himself is actually put last.
Check out the latest episode of BioTalk in which Rebecca Taylor and I talk more about IVF and the rights of children:
I’ve posted this before, but it was in the Magnificat again today, appropriate for the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children:
Our life is not an invention. It is a gift from God. He had the courage to trust in us so much that he placed the gift of life, the gift of existence, into our hands life, existence, and gave us the necessary tools to live it well. Perhaps we never considered life as God’s initiative. Often times we think that we are born because our parents wanted us or by chance, or for other human and natural reasons.
This is confirmed by the fact that there are people who do not want to live. People who stay at the surface and do not enter into the essence of life …
We must convince ourselves, first of all, that God wanted to give to you, give me, and give to those around us the wonderful gift of life. It is a gift to be discovered, welcomed, protected, and loved. If we do not discover this in ourselves, we are not capable of recognizing and defending the lives of others, of our children, or of those we claim to love
We must believe that life does not come by chance. It is not ours; it is a gift from God, born from his heart, which is Love; it is a gift that we must begin to unwrap, just like when we are given a beautifully wrapped gift. With curiosity we tear open the package to find out what is on the inside and why it was given to us, a reason that undoubtedly will give us great joy….
We all love life for what we see, feel, and touch, but life does not belong to us; it belongs to Someone else, we belong to someone who wants to take care of us and who wants us to discover the true flavor of life, for he knows that only in this way will we be truly happy..
MOTHER ELVIRA PETROZZI
Mother Elvira Petrozzi is foundress of Comunità Cenacolo, welcoming the lost and desperate in forty fraternities in thirteen countries.
Related: The Task of Life
This is pretty fascinating, if not also very chilling (h/t Stacy Trasancos).
Stacy highlighted a key exchange between Roe attorney Sarah Weddington and a few of the Justices (beginning at 20:37 in the second audio file):
Justice Harry A. Blackmun: But tell me why you didn’t discuss the Hippocratic Oath.
Mrs. Weddington: Okay.
I guess it was– okay, in part, because the Hippocratic Oath, we discuss basically the constitutional protection we felt the woman to have.
The Hippocratic Oath does not pertain to that.
Second, we discuss the fact that the state had not established a compelling state interest.
The Hippocratic Oath would not really pertain to that.
And then, we discuss the vagueness jurisdiction.
It seem to us that that, that the fact that the medical profession, at one time, had adopted the Hippocratic Oath does not weight upon the fundamental constitutional rights involved.
It is a guide for physicians, but the outstanding organizations of the medical profession have, in fact, adopted a position that says the doctor and the patient should be able to make the decision for themselves in this kind of situation.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun: Of course, it’s the only definitive statement of ethics in the medical profession.
I take it, from what you just said, that you’re—you didn’t even footnote it because it’s old.
That’s about really what you’re saying.
Mrs. Weddington: Well, I guess you…it is old, and not that it’s out of date, but it seemed to us that it was not pertinent to the argument we were making.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun: Let me ask another question.
Last June 29, this Court decided the capital punishment cases.
Mrs. Weddington: Yes, sir.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun: Do you feel that there is any inconsistency in the Court’s decision in those cases outlying the death penalty with respect to convicted murderers and rapists at one end of lifespan, and your position in this case at the other end of lifespan?
Mrs. Weddington: I think had there been established that the fetus was a person under the Fourteenth Amendment or under constitutional protection then there might be a differentiation.
In this case, there has never been established that the fetus is a person or that it’s entitled to the Fourteenth Amendment rights or the protection of the constitution.
It would be inconsistent to decide that, after birth, various classifications of persons would be subject to the death penalty or not but, here, we have a person, the woman, entitled to fundamental constitutional rights as opposed to the fetus prior to birth where there is no establishment of any kind of federal constitutional rights.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun: Well, do I get from this then that your case depends primarily on the proposition that the fetus has no constitutional rights?
Mrs. Weddington: It depends on saying that the woman has a fundament constitutional right and that the state has not proved any compelling interest for regulation in the area.
Even if the Court, at some point, determined the fetus to be entitled to constitutional protection, you would still get back into the weighing of one life against another.
Justice Byron R. White: And that’s what’s involved in this case, weighing one life against another?
Mrs. Weddington: No, Your Honor.
I said that would be what would be involved if the facts were different and the state could prove that there was a person for the constitutional right.
Justice Potter Stewart: Well, if it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?
Mrs. Weddington: I would have a very difficult case. [Laughter]
Justice Potter Stewart: You certainly would because you’d have the same kind of thing you’d have to say that this would be the equivalent to after the child was born.
Mrs. Weddington: That’s right.
Justice Potter Stewart: If the mother thought that it bothered her health having the child around, she could have it killed.
Isn’t that correct?
Mrs. Weddington: That’s correct.
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger: Could Texas constitutionally…did you want to respond further to Justice Stewart?
Did you want to respond further to him?
Mrs. Weddington: No, Your Honor.
Lizzie Velásquez is a 24 year old American woman who was born with a very rare disease (shared by only one other person in the United States) that doesn’t allow her to gain weight. She has been bullied most of her life, including being labeled the “World’s Ugliest Woman” in an internet video that received over a million views and thousands of vile comments. Now she is an author and motivational speaker. Many of you may recognize her from a video of her TEDX talk in Austin last month that immediately went viral.
For the most part, her speech is a motivational pep-talk for those who have been bullied or with low self-esteem. But it also sends a powerful message to the culture of death, specifically those who justify killing in order to spare someone a lifetime or period of suffering some disease or disability.
“I’ve had a really difficult life — but that’s okay” -Lizzie Velásquez.
For those who would bully someone like Lizzy for her differences or promote killing disabled individuals (in and out of the womb) it is important to keep in mind, as Susan Windley-Daoust reminds us in her forthcoming book Theology of the Body Extended, that disability is an “open minority” that we will all join someday if we are not there already, because human beings are limited. If nothing else, we will all age into “limitations of expected function.” But even before then, most people will experience illness or some form of temporary impairment.
Personally, the past fourteen years of my life have not been easy. But that doesn’t mean they have been “too hard” to take, or that joy has eluded me. I’m still a human being, I’m still alive, and my life still has meaning and infinite value despite my challenges and limitations.
Of course we should never want anyone to be sick or live with terrible disabilities and incurable diseases. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good that can come from facing our fears and accepting and overcoming life’s hardships. These are the things that help build our character and strengthen us as persons. Experiencing adversity provides and elite (and extensive) education in the practical living-out of those valuable virtues: humility, patience, courage, and perseverance.
Suffering is a great spiritual teacher, as well. Reminding us that we are creatures and totally dependent on God, it teaches us humility and self denial so that the power of Christ may more easily dwell in us (2 Corinth 12:9-10).
What defines you as a person?
This is the crux of Lizzie’s talk. She asked the audience to consider what defines them: their backgrounds? Friends? Families? She reminds them that if they can find happiness within, and be the drivers of their own lives, the bullies will always lose.
The cult of normalcy asserts its power over the week, deciding who gets to live and who must die, by defining people largely based on their abilities or lack there of. Those judged to fall short of their arbitrary, utilitarian standards are defined by those differences and cast aside as having lives not worth living.
“Only God can judge.” We hear that phrase thrown around so much from pseudo-Christian progressives who want to justify all manner of perverse and sinful behavior. Thankfully, we know God doesn’t judge human life in the same utilitarian terms as the cult of normalcy. In fact, Windley-Doust reminds us that, Jesus Christ, the messiah, God incarnate, “has consented to a way of limitation, of embodiment that can be bound, injured and killed as the way to define ‘the man.’” Therefore,
“When we see or experience limitation, even impairment, we should not think, ‘behold, the monster,’ but rather ‘behold, the man’ (John 19:5). The incarnation of Christ and his passion is the ‘norm,’ not anything defined by the cult of normalcy.”
We are human beings not human doings. Our lives are defined, not by how we look or what we can or cannot do, but who we are. And who we are, all of us, is children of a loving God. A God who loved us so much that he became a man himself, suffered and died, showing us that every human life, even when it is subject to pain, is infinitely blessed and valuable and worth living.
Say hello to my little nephew, Cruz Alexander Underwood! Born January 14 at 12:49 am. He’s 7 lb. 5 oz. of absolute perfection!
I couldn’t be more proud of my baby sister. Can’t wait to see this little guy in person and smother him with auntie kisses.
People often say that it’s not fair to bring a child into such a cruel world with all it’s war, poverty, violence and disease. Last year Unilever tried to help ease those fears in a few expectant parents by reminding them of some of the amazing advancements and opportunities we have now that never existed before and why “there has never been a better time to create a brighter future.”
Thank God for new life! The world may be a scary place, but new life is new hope for a better and brighter future. Welcome, baby Cruz! You already make this world a better place.
Prayers please! Just got word that my baby sister is headed to the hospital in labor with my nephew.
A Prayer to St. Gerard for Safe Delivery
O great Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of your meek and humble Savior, and devoted child of Mother of God, enkindle within my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity which glowed in your heart and made you an angel of love. O glorious Saint Gerard, because when falsely accused of crime, you did bear, like your Divine Master, without murmur or complaint, the calumnies of wicked men, you have been raised up by God as the patron and protector of expectant mothers. Preserve Caitlin from danger and from the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child which she now carries, that it may see the light of day and receive the purifying and life-giving waters of baptism through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I feel baby!! Cruz was moving around for aunt Chelsea on Thanksgiving — thankful to be alive. Thank God for new life!
The Center for Bioethics and Culture, producers of the award-winning Eggsploitation and Anonymous Father’s Day, will be releasing a new documentary later this month. Breeders: A Subclass of Women? explores the important issue of surrogacy, talking with surrogates, physicians, psychologists, and activists across the political and ideological spectrum.
Pay attention, ladies. Porn is not the only industry commodifying women. Biotechnology is a “women’s issue” if ever there was one.
From the video description:
Surrogacy is fast becoming one of the major issues of the 21st century—celebrities and everyday people are increasingly using surrogates to build their families. But the practice is fraught with complex implications for women, children, and families. What is the impact on the women who serve as surrogates and on the children who are born from surrogacy? In what ways might money complicate things? What about altruistic surrogacy done for a family member or close friend? Is surrogacy a beautiful, loving act or does it simply degrade pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product? Can we find a middle ground? Should we even look for one?
Breeders dares to go where few documentaries have dared yet to take us and where the assisted reproduction/family building industry really doesn’t want us to go: the dark heart of surrogacy where women with less financial means are treated like vessels and the children created are products made to fit the adult needs. For anyone who doesn’t want to believe that “modern family building” involves contracts, injections, donors, lawyers and payments changing hands, a strong dose of reality and compassion could be salvaged by watching this film.
— Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, writer, speaker, activist on adoptee rights, and organizer of the Adoptee Rights Coalition. She blogs at Musings of the Lame
Great documentaries move the viewer with simple facts, delivered in first-person accounts. Breeders accomplishes this. It offers the facts about the market for eggs and wombs from the lips of the sellers, while it overwhelms you with the human consequences of a trade in human beings.
— Helen M. Alvare, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
Jennifer Lahl’s eye-opening interviews with surrogates, doctors, psychologists, and advocates across the political spectrum explain why surrogacy is either illegal or far more limited in other industrialized countries. Two NOW officials weigh in on the commodification of the financially strapped women who become surrogates and the widely ignored increased risk of maternal death in gestational surrogacy. Surrogates describe medical and emotional nightmares for themselves and the children involved; one who was allowed to visit the child to whom she’d given birth when the little girl was five months old describes finding that the until then constantly collicky infant did nothing but sleep peacefully on the surrogate’s chest the whole time she was there. Until then, she says, “I at no point in time thought about how it would affect her.” Perhaps most sobering, though, are the words of a young woman who was the result of such an arrangement: “Most of the consideration is for the adults” who can afford to effectively buy their children, she says, exploiting both the women hired to bear them and the children whose “foundation of existence is a contract, and money.”
— Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post
Breeders is a fascinating film that highlights the many tensions between women’s status, the free market demands of the fertility industry, and the fragmentation of women’s fertility and reproductive labor. This is a must-see film for all those who care about women and human rights.
— Hedva Eyal, Medical Technologies Policy Researcher and feminist activist, Israel