Rebecca Taylor will be guest blogging here once a week for the next month. Rebecca is a Technologist in Molecular Biology, MB(ASCP) and a practicing Catholic. She has been writing and speaking about Catholicism and biotechnology for five years at her blog Mary Meets Dolly.

We’re proud to have her here. Here’s her first piece:

A few years ago I went shopping for a brand new house. Every model home I visited, regardless of the builder, had a gigantic master suite with a spa-like enormous bathroom where every morning you could cartwheel your way to the shower and back flip to the toilet. Down the hall, placed almost like an afterthought, were 3 or 4 tiny little bedrooms whose total square feet might add up to the space provided in the palatial master suite.

After the 5th house or so, I realized this was an indicator that society’s values had shifted. Builders were building what the buyer wanted, which was clearly parental desire and comfort at the child’s expense. I also knew it wasn’t a good
sign. These days it is all about what parents want, not about what is best for the children. There is nowhere where this attitude is more apparent than in the assisted reproduction industry. We all heard of the Octomom, but it goes so much deeper than that.

In vitro fertilization, better known as IVF, is not just about infertility anymore, it is about human manufacturing to specifications. In the past year, two stories have been in the news that illustrate my point. Gillian and Paul St. Lawrence, both fertile and in their 30’s, have used IVF to create 5 embryos. They have frozen their 5 offspring until it is more convenient for them to raise children. From the Washington Post:

“Our five frozen embryos, which we call our baby blastocysts, will remain in storage until we are ready to use them. Since study after study has indicated that the age of the uterus at the time the embryo is implanted is almost irrelevant to the success rate of achieving a healthy baby, we can wait 10 or 15 years: The chief consideration may well be how old I want to be when I’m raising a teenager.

Upon hearing this, my mother-in-law was quick to ask: “You don’t have to wait until you are 40 to use the embryos, right?” No, we do not. We can choose to use them any time. And, of course, my husband and I are still free to have babies the old-fashioned way. We still have all the options we had prior to this project — but now we have some insurance against future infertility.

Five human lives have been created and put in “storage” until they are ready to “use” as the St. Lawrence’s “project” to provide themselves “insurance.” (Her words not mine.) There was a time we used “gift” and “blessing” when referring to children but in this Brave New World, “project” and “insurance” are more appropriate. IVF is now being used for human manufacturing to specifications. In this case, ordered with delayed delivery.

What is particularly chilling (no pun intended) is Gillian’s description of how she weighed the pros and cons of freezing her offspring as if she was deciding whether the lasagna she made the night before would freeze well enough to still taste good in a few months.

The second story is about an Australian couple who are complaining that they have to travel all the way to Thailand to use IVF to have a daughter. They have 3 healthy boys already (I assume made the old fashioned way) and want to use IVF and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to insure they have a girl. The problem is Australia does not allow IVF and PGD for sex selection. From the Herald Sun:

A MELBOURNE mum is so desperate to have a daughter she is traveling to Thailand so she can choose the sex of her next baby, frustrated at Australian medical authorities as they drag their feet over the issue.

Already blessed with three boys – aged 5, 4 and 1 – the 36-year-old and her husband say they have been forced to sidestep Australian laws because they cannot wait for federal medical authorities to decide if they will overturn their ban on the practice.

“At this point I would do anything to have a daughter,” she said.

“It is an ethical thing we have weighed up. It hasn’t been a decision taken lightly but it is one we feel we have reached and we are happy with.

“I wouldn’t trade my sons for a million daughters – this is not about my sons. It is about me and my husband wanting a daughter.

At least she is honest. This is not about loving and caring for a girl, it is about her and her husband “wanting a daughter.” There is a difference. If loving and caring for a girl was the goal, then adoption would certainly fit the bill. But when it is about insuring you get a genetically related female, then human manufacturing to specifications is the answer.

This woman insists it is not about her sons, but the reality of IVF and PGD is that she will create embryonic sons that she will in fact “trade” to get the embryonic daughter. She will create male offspring in the process, the clinic will just throw them out in favor of the females.

The Catholic Church had always been against IVF, even in cases of infertility. Once you create life outside the body, it naturally turns into the manufacturing of humans. We are meant to be begotten not made. And certainly not made to specifications. I think these two cases illustrate the wisdom of the Church. In the end, I never bought a new house. I stayed in my solidly-built 1940s bungalow where the bedrooms are nearly all the same size and there is no master bath. Now that I think about it, they didn’t have IVF in the 1940s.

Rebecca writes at Mary Meets Dolly which is, literally, the meeting of the world of genetics and genetic engineering, represented by Dolly, “mother” of modern biotechnology, and the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of life, represented by Mary, mother of Christ and the Church. Rebecca started to help everyday Catholics better understand the science and ethics surrounding modern biotechnology in light of Catholic Church teaching.