February 2, 2009

Why are we Repulsed by the Proper Use of Embryos?

The story about the woman from California who recently gave birth to 8 babies through IVF has stirred up what is, in my opinion, a very odd sense of moral outrage. "Who is she to have 14 kids, wasn't 6 enough?" "She still lives with her parents? With all those kids?" And my favorite, "It's not like she did it naturally" as if the method of accumulation should make any difference.

I am not suggesting that the use of ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies) hasn't proven to be a disastrous slippery slope, nor am I recommending single women run out and start their own country by birthing countless numbers of children. But we must examine the moral assumptions behind this outrage. For instance, the person who said "wasn't 6 kids enough" has the right to her own opinion, even if it is dependent on subjective ethical relativism. What prevents her from saying just one more child would have been enough? Who decides how many kids a person can have?

The expected response to that is to focus on the anticipated burden she might be on the welfare system. I realize it is popular right now to believe that limiting the amount of children born to people of a certain economic class is looking out for the common good, but how is her 14 different from the millions of women who have given birth to just one? Who decides how many is enough?

As Christians, we should applaud the fact that these little humans were allowed to be born. She could have allowed research on the embryos or simply had them destroyed. She likely couldn't afford more than the one implantation...and she opted to give them all a chance. Granted, there are some ethical questions with the doctors' willingness to implant so many embryos, but medicine today is consumer-oriented. Should we really focus any outrage on medical care on just this incident? This isn't the first time science and medicine has commodified human life.

Finally, I believe the inclination to desire to have children is going the way of the seared conscious. Culture is moving so far from God that we should celebrate anything that even resembles a desire to fulfill the cultural mandate. All other motivations aside, if she sincerely loves children, praise God!

Frankly, I'm more confused by the reactions about this story than I am bothered by her having so many kids. In fact, now is the time for the church to put words into action and come alongside this woman who chose life for the already living instead of death for these little souls.

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