ARPA Canada Calls for Reform to Assisted Human Reproduction Laws in Updated Policy Report on In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process that creates a human embryo outside the womb of its mother. A woman’s eggs are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, resulting in embryos that grow under the supervision of laboratory staff. Between 3-5 days after fertilization, one or more of the embryos are transferred into the birth mother’s uterus in hopes that they will implant and continue to grow into healthy, full-term infants. Excess surviving embryos that are not implanted are frozen, discarded, or donated for research.
Federal and provincial governments in Canada are seeking to improve access to IVF, particularly in terms of helping with the cost. Infertility rates have doubled since 1980 and the IVF industry is booming. In addition to overcoming infertility in opposite-sex couples, IVF is seen as a way for same-sex couples to have children. In the federal government’s latest budget, they incentivized the use of IVF through increased tax credits for expenses related to the process. Various provinces also provide financial incentives and support for those who pursue IVF.
ARPA Canada wants to draw attention to the ethical issues surrounding IVF, especially the relevant moral considerations around the sanctity of human life.
Children are a gift from God, and His natural design for how they come into existence is good. Any conversation about IVF must begin from this foundation. Children are meant to be born to and cared for by their biological parents whenever possible, and each embryo is a unique human being that should be treated with dignity and respect.
Unfortunately, the humanity of the embryo is largely ignored in the way IVF is carried out in Canada. To increase the chances of producing a healthy embryo, “extra” embryos are often created, only to be aborted, frozen, discarded, or used for research. Additionally, technology is often used to determine if embryos have various genetic conditions, allowing parents and doctors to reject those embryos. This is ableist, treating some lives as more valuable than others based on their perceived ability.
The Children’s Perspectives
The first birth through IVF took place in 1978. Since that time, children conceived by IVF have expressed concerns about the process. One child conceived through IVF recently shared her story:
“A miracle baby. That’s what my parents always said I was. After 12 years of marriage and much agony, I had been conceived. They had never been so happy. I had never doubted that I was wanted. But there it was…right in the baby book my grandmother had put together for me was a photo of me as an embryo in a Petri dish…
Somehow, somewhere, my parents developed the idea that they deserved to have a baby, and it didn’t matter how much it cost, how many times it took, or how many died in the process.”
This addresses the reality that IVF often stems from a belief, spoken or not, that children are a product to which adults have a right, and that parents are justified in using any means possible to obtain children. This story also recognizes the humanity of the lives lost through failed efforts and the unethical treatment of human life at the earliest stages.
Another concern among children of IVF is their lack of connection to their genetic family history. The IVF industry relies on sperm and egg donations. A donor provides their reproductive material and then effectively abandons his or her biological child. These donations are often done anonymously, and children created by IVF are unable to access information about these biological parents. Instead of focusing on what’s best for children, IVF puts the needs of children below the desires of adults.
Updated Policy Report
ARPA Canada has just released our revised and updated Respectfully Submitted policy report on In Vitro Fertilization, expanding on the principle of human life and dignity and on the harms of sperm and egg donation.
Our recommendations focus on respecting human life from its earliest stages, and on putting the best interests of a child ahead of the desires of adults. Children conceived through IVF can be better protected by limiting the number of embryos created, prohibiting the destruction of embryos, and ensuring that children are not created using anonymous donor gametes.
We encourage you to read through the report, send it to your MP, and ask them to read through it as well. If you have any feedback or questions, we would love to hear from you at [email protected].