0 comments on “Created for Joy”

Created for Joy

Marriage and family life are punctuated with times of great happiness and joy, such as the wedding day and the birth of a child.  Also known to family life are times of great sadness as daily struggles, illness and death are contended with.

These times of joy and sadness help us to see the dignity of each person as we learn to really love by putting aside our selfish desires, and reaching out as gift and service to those around us.

0 comments on “Synod on the Family: Consultation of the New Zealand Bishops”

Synod on the Family: Consultation of the New Zealand Bishops

FamilyThe New Zealand Catholic Bishops have released their consultation questionnaire in preparation for this year’s Synod on the Family which is to be held in Rome, October 5th to 19th.

Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North will be participating in the Synod this October.

0 comments on “Egg freezing: A work benefit?”

Egg freezing: A work benefit?

Two leading technology companies, Apple and Facebook, are funding their workers or ‘partners’ to have their eggs frozen for future IVF. This is already covered by Facebook’s employee benefit plan, and Apple plans to introduce it in the 2015. Both companies will be offering a US$20 000 benefit for reproductive technologies including egg freezing, surrogacy and IVF.

These companies have been accused of offering egg freezing so female employees can focus on their work and leave the family until later. That’s certainly how many are seeing this move, including some who think it’s a good thing, as well as those who see it as exploitation. This is still a problem from the career point of view. After the age of 35, the success of using frozen eggs drops. And that’s still well before most careers peak.

But that is the least of the problems. Egg freezing will invariably lead to IVF, and IVF is very wasteful on human life. With current success rates, less than ten percent of embryos that are created survive to birth. Those that do survive suffer higher rates of abnormalities than children conceived naturally.

The process of egg freezing as a ‘benefit’ is a troubling development in modern parenting. It changes the attitudes and motivations of parenting. Children normally come from the loving embrace of their parents. This physical act of love causes a child to be born from love of their parents. With frozen eggs these babies start life in a plastic dish after a commercial transaction. And increasingly these babies are being born to people who aren’t their biological parents. So children will be seen less as a gift, and more as a product or a right. Either way the child becomes a means to an ends, with parental satisfaction becoming more important than respecting the dignity and rights of the child.

One fertility expert expects egg freezing to become standard for professional women. At US$10 000 to US$13 000 a time and US$500 a year for storage it could be a lucrative business. However, fertility experts recommend freezing at least 18 eggs. It might require two or more egg retrievals to collect that many eggs. For egg collection, the woman undergoes weeks of hormone injections followed by an invasive procedure to remove her eggs, many more than she would naturally release. This is risky for the women. So the temptation will be to try maximise the number of eggs from a single retrieval, which increases the risk of this potentially dangerous and invasive procedure. When a woman chooses to use frozen eggs, she will find that her choice of family size is greatly restricted. She might only have enough eggs stored to have one or possibly two children. The option to have more children later is probably gone. So egg freezing can become a family planning program too. Effectively a one or two child policy.

These companies also cover surrogacy too. So reproduction risks becoming something that professional women contract out. This is because by the time most careers are hitting their peak, a woman’s fertility has dropped to the point her chances of having a baby survive IVF are very low without a younger surrogate mother.

So Apple and Facebook’s ‘benefits’, substantially change family and parenting. Little regard is held for the lives of the children before birth. They become just another item on the ‘bucket list’. The link between the love of parents and the love of the child is removed and little regard is held for the life of the child before implantation.

And they call this a benefit?

2 comments on “A true pastoral response: teaching the truth in love without fear”

A true pastoral response: teaching the truth in love without fear

Family at the foot of the crossAt a recent press conference for the Synod on the Family it was announced that one presenter, who was not to be named, had proposed that “language such as ‘living in sin’, ‘intrinsically disordered’, or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”

That may have an element of truth in it.  People do not like to hear that they are living a sinful life and that their souls are in danger of eternal death and so they stay away or their hearts become hardened.  But it is not the language that is the problem.  This language is speaking the truth with love for the individual created in the image and likeness of God, and who is made for heaven.

The problem lies in the attitude of those who wish to “bend the rules” as it were to “pastorally” embrace those who, because of their personal situations and experiences, feel unwelcomed by the Church.

So much of the discussion around this Synod on the Family has been around the “hardship” people face whose lives, for whatever reason, do not reflect the teaching of the Church on life, love, marriage and family.  It is argued that the Church must allow these people full participation in the Sacraments because that would be truly compassionate and merciful.

But true compassion and mercy stems from concern for the eternal salvation of a person’s soul.

A feeling is just that, a feeling.  It may not be a true reflection of reality at all.

All are welcomed into the Church.  All of us are sinners.  Each one of us must daily choose to take up our cross and follow Jesus.  When we fall we make a firm decision to not fall into the same sinfulness again and we seek reconciliation with our God through the Sacrament of Penance.

A real pastoral response does not push aside the sins as irrelevant, nor does it seek to hide the language of truth in order to make individuals feel better about their choices in life.  Instead, a real pastoral response teaches the flock, explaining carefully the reasons why the teachings exist and then assists people to live their lives faithfully through appropriate practical measures.

Those who defend the Church’s teaching do so, with a great understanding of the trials faced by families and individuals in today’s culture. They have a deep love of Christ and his people.  They have a zeal for the eternal happiness of souls.  Like a good parent who loves their child, they realise that rules exist to protect and to ultimately lead one into the Truth.  Their response is one of true compassion and mercy.

The Saints knew that the goal of heaven could not be won by taking the easy road.  They knew that a true Christian must live sacrificial love.  They inspire us to do the same.  Each one of us is called to sainthood.

St Thomas More was martyred for his stand against Henry VIII’s refusal to accept the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce.  He defended with all his might the truth of the Catholic Church while Henry changed the rules to suit his own desires and whims, ultimately forming his own church.

St Gianna Beretta Molla knew about sacrificial love.  She gave her life in order that her preborn child may live.

St John Paul II understood the great value of suffering, of giving oneself totally and entering into Calvary.  He taught that to love is to be gift to one another.

St John Paul II’s legacy was also one where many, many young people, encouraged by his words, chose to pick up their cross and follow Jesus daily despite the hardships and difficulties.  These young people are now the families of today who are faithfully living their married lives, opening their hearts and lives to children, living the Gospel of Life.  Sometimes they are seen as fundamentalists or self-righteous when they seek the support they need to live out their vocation faithfully or when they actively search for Pastors who will teach them and their children the Catholic faith without excuses.

A true pastoral response teaches the truth in love without fear.

Great witnesses of the faith are born through solid, truthful formation.

The world needs Christ.  We must not be afraid to love sacrificially, to teach the beauty of God’s plan for love and life and family.  We must know that God’s grace is sufficient and that real mercy can be obtained.  We must not be afraid, as St John Paul II said “to go out on the streets and public places.”

As we serve with love, as we live love, as we teach the truth in love, then we will draw people back into the loving arms of the Church our Mother.

2 comments on “The Numbers game”

The Numbers game

couplelovebabyOne question that frequently comes up in parenting circles is ‘how many children is the right number?’ I’ve always thought it is an odd that in a pluralistic world, people would think there would be a one size fits all family.

There is a lot of advice on the subject, and for those of us with more than three children, a lot of unwanted comments too. I should have seen it coming when our third child was born, and one of the first comments was, ‘Wow, you have a large family now’. We didn’t stop at three, and the comments didn’t stop either. After our fifth, I started getting less comments, with most people sighing and shaking their heads. I think they had given up on me as a lost cause. My wife’s experience was significantly different. The comments and odd looks haven’t stopped.

These comments on family size are one of the few personal criticisms that is still socially acceptable. If you comment negatively about someone’s sexual orientation, you will be shunned from polite society. Similarly for commenting on someone moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. And yet making humiliating and hurting comments about the number of children good parents have is fair game. ‘She’s too young’, ‘She’s too old’, or ‘Are you addicted to babies?’ Most mums of large families could easily fill a book with the comments that they have received.

And governments get in on the act too.  Some countries have decided the ideal family size, and either encourage through public policy, or legislate their ideal number. Generally this number is one or two. A number is set under the influence of the population control lobby. There is a terrible toll on human life due to forced or coerced abortion.

But here in New Zealand, the decision is the parent’s, but there is certainly social pressure. Back when I was at school, there was great concern about overpopulation. When I grew up I was going to be stepping over bodies wherever I went, and it was certain that there was going to be widespread starvation. We now recognise that famine is caused by distribution problems, generally due to wars. And as for stepping over people to get anywhere, our biggest population problems include widespread loneliness, and the coming demographic winter.

So the academic reasons for limiting family size never really existed. What is left is social and economic.

Housing a family is expensive, and there is a growing expectation that all children should have their own room. The expectations for what a child should own are getting unrealistic. Some schools dictate each child should own a tablet or laptop computer. Every teenager expects to have a cell phone, and usually a smartphone. Even state schools have suggested donations and all manner of activity fees.

So the faithful Catholic couple has to live in a world that is hostile to the idea of being generous with the size of their family. Here the Church makes the most modest demands, and these are for the benefit of the couple and their family.

The Church asks for generosity, and what newly married person does not want to be generous with their love for their spouse? The church asks that their loving gift of self to each other is complete, and does not selfishly hold back fertility. What newly married couple plans selfish motives in their love? Here the Church goes even further to help the couple. She encourages natural fertility regulation as a means, for serious reasons, to avoid pregnancy for a time. So the Church proposes means to avoid pregnancy without entering into a contradictory act. That is where they appear to giving themselves fully, but at the same time they limit their gift of self by withholding the very part of that gift that takes love beyond the couple. That being their fertility. And it’s children that take the loving gift of self between loving spouses, and multiply that gift beyond the couple.

And finally the Church trusts the married couple to make decisions about when they are ready for each child. The guidance she gives in no way determines a one size fits all number of children a family should have. They are free to decide, based on their circumstances, whether to, as one Catholic women described to me, “Just plan our family naturally”. Or alternatively wait until circumstances have improved.

In no way does the Church impose on the married couple, rather she gently proposes her teachings for the good of the spouses. If they both choose to follow the advice, marriage is elevated to a state of living a poetry of love. This is in profound contrast to the selfish and utilitarian motives of the world around us.

1 comment on “Surrogacy”

Surrogacy

babyGammyThe story of baby Gammy’s abandonment by his biological parents for having Down syndrome has opened up a wide discussion around surrogacy.

As the days go on, more information is being revealed about the biological parents of the 7 month old boy and the circumstances of his birth.

We know that Gammy and his twin sister were born as a result of a surrogacy agreement between an Australian couple and an Indonesian woman, Pattharamon Janbua, who is 21 and already the mother of two children.  Her husband agreed that the cash she would receive for being a surrogate (or gestational carrier) would help them out considerably.  That fee was reported to be $AUS11,700.

It was discovered about three months along that there were twins, and more money was offered to Pattharamon.  However, a month later tests revealed that one of the babies had Down syndrome – that baby was Gammy.

Pattharamon says that the Australian biological parents asked that Gammy be aborted, but because of her Buddhist believes she could not do it.

When the twins were born, the Australian couple took the little girl, who we know very little about, but who obviously did not have Down syndrome, leaving Gammy at the hospital.

According to Indonesian law, Pattharamon is Gammy’s legal parent.  Gammy has medical issues, in particular a heart condition which needs surgery – a complication that is reasonably common in those with Down syndrome – this has led Pattharamon to go public and to ask for assistance.  More than $200,000 has been raised and this little boy will have the surgery he needs.

In a new twist to the story, it is being reported that the biological father has a “conviction for indecently dealing with a child under 13 and has served jail time after being found guilty in 1998.”

The story raises many points to discuss around parenthood, surrogacy, IVF, infertility, abortion and disability, too many for this post.

Infertility, or the inability to carry a child because of the lack of a womb is a tragedy that brings great heartbreak for many people.  It is natural for people, and women in particular, to desire to have a child.  There is something innate in us that wishes to carry on a part of yourself.  Love between a man and a woman is at its best when it multiplies to include children.

But at what point does the desire to have a child become a want, a need a must have possession at all costs?

So many couples today are experiencing infertility and generally the response is to deal with it by approaching a fertility clinic such as Fertility Associates.

IVF (in vitro fertilisation – the creation of a new human being in a petri-dish) is very common place.  It is often not talked about for many reasons.  Those of us who oppose it on the grounds that it creates children outside of the marital embrace and removes the dignity of human embryos by freezing the excess and discarding the imperfect, tend to keep quiet so as to not offend friends who desperately wish to have a family.

Pregnancy is sacrosanct.  One must be able to have their own genetic child at all costs – and it costs a lot.  (Private treatment costs with Fertility Associates is so complex that they have developed a Fertility Cover plan where payment can be made for three cycles with 70% being refunded if no baby results).

Often donors are required to fulfill the “dream”, complicating the situation further.

Then there is surrogacy.  Which is how baby Gammy now finds himself the subject of much debate.

Out of his biological parents desire to have a child at whatever cost, they chose to have another woman carry their child to birth, entering into a contract, an agreement, and paying money for “services”.  The desire to have a child and the subsequent agreement was only ever for the delivery of a “perfect” child.  That is what they paid their money for.  That is why they asked for little Gammy to be aborted when it was discovered in utero that he had Down syndrome.  That is why they were able to walk away from him, tearing him apart from his twin sister.  He, in their eyes, was not perfect and a child with Down syndrome was not what they had invested in.  To this couple Gammy has no worth because he is a defective object that doesn’t fulfill the contract made with the surrogate mother.

We should not be shocked.  The attitude that pregnancy is a right if one chooses it has permeated society to such an extent that a mother has a right to terminate the vulnerable life within her if she so chooses.  Why would it be any different when she pays money for another to carry that child to birth?  Abandonment after birth is only an extension of the desire to abort an already living human being in the womb.

How many pre-born children, diagnosed with various fetal anomalies are aborted each year not only here in New Zealand, but throughout the world, because they do not meet the expectations of perfection?

As a society we must see children as gifts, not as objects that can be manipulated in the science lab.  We must see that all children have worth and dignity and cannot be “terminated” or abandoned simply because they do not measure up to our standards of perfection.  If we do not, then little Gammy’s life has taught us nothing and we will find ourselves discussing situations even more graver than this.

 

 

Note:  I have noticed that an alternative spelling for the surrogate mother’s name is being used – Pattaramon Chanbua.  I have also seen quoted an alternative amount paid by the Australian couple – $AU$16,000.

0 comments on “Life affirming ultrasound”

Life affirming ultrasound

Ultrasound PhotoI recently had the experience of sitting in on a 19 week pregnancy scan. For my wife and I it was the first chance to see our new child and as such, we were both looking forward to it.

For many couples, the first pregnancy ultrasound is the first bonding experience they have with their new child.  Before the days of ultrasound, a mother’s first bonding to the new baby was started when she first felt the baby moving, but increasingly, the ultrasound is the first experience that mothers and fathers have with their new child.  This is recognised by medical researchers. It’s also probably been a factor in society’s increasing recognition of the humanity of the pre born child.

Forming this relationship between parents and the child is important. The strength of the bond will affect many outcomes for the child, particularly for the child’s education.

I have personally found a great deal of difference between sonographers.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Shari Richard at work, and seen her infectious enthusiasm for the unborn child, and the positive effect it has on the child’s parents.  Few sonographers can match her enthusiasm.  I’ve seen other sonographers at work, including one working on me, although she wasn’t going to find a baby and wasn’t looking for one!  They differ greatly in the way they interact with parents about their new baby.  The most recent sonographer we had always referred to our child as ‘baby’, e.g. “This is babies head” etc.

But this isn’t always the case.  We had a scan in a previous pregnancy when the sonographer became very quiet.  Later we found out the reason – she had found a medical problem with our child.  Although it was potentially very serious, a couple of surgeries fixed the problem before it could do any serious damage, and our child now enjoys excellent health.

But why the difference in the response of the sonographer?  Our baby didn’t stop being our baby because he had a medical problem. We certainly didn’t love him any less.

But sonographers and other medical professional are influenced by abortion.  Abortion is considered a solution to many birth defects, so it’s natural for sonographers to moderate their enthusiasm for the baby during scans.

But this could affect the start of the formation of the bond between baby and parents. Crisis Pregnancy Centres have known for a long time the benefit of an expectant mother seeing her baby by ultrasound.  It encourages the bond to form between mother and child.  But ultrasound can be used in a way that doesn’t encourage this bonding.  Clinic profit motives and abortion quotas can affect the way ultrasound results are presented and interpreted.  A recent study of 15 500 women attending Planned Parenthood abortion clinics showed that viewing ultrasound images had very little effect on the mothers decision to abort her child.  It’s hard to imagine the ultrasound technicians in these abortion clinics wanted to present the humanity of the pre-born child and facilitate bonding between mother and child.

Similarly, using ultrasound as a search and destroy mission to eliminate less than perfect is not a good way to encourage bonding. It’s important for the sonographer to show the beauty and humanity of the pre-born child.  This is the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.  It’s the most important relationship, and it deserves a good start.  Children do better when there is good bonding with their parents.  It’s here that the sensitivity to the minority that have abortions, affects the rest of us – and our children.

It is one of the ways that abortion affects us all.

 

4 comments on “IVF as exploitation”

IVF as exploitation

baby-17369_640

I think the Catholic Church’s opposition to IVF is well known. It’s based on the principle that IVF separates intercourse from procreation. In some ways it’s like contraception, only in reverse. It’s also very costly in terms of human life at the stage of the human embryo.

But it has a very human side too. The desire for children can be very strong. And many couples find it difficult to conceive. For many of these couples, that realisation doesn’t come until the last years of their fertility, which adds a sense of urgency.

If these couples are blessed to live in a part of world where there is good fertility treatment which is morally acceptable, then they have the option for a treatment that works with a woman’s natural cycle. In other areas, there are less options, typically only IVF.

IVF is hard on the couples who go through it. The scientific literature documents cycles of anxiety which the women experience during cycles and depression after failed cycles. The hormones used to stimulate the ovaries into releasing eggs are not kind to women. The process of collecting eggs is physically painful, but this pain is described as less than the emotional pain. Each cycle of treatment brings more anticipation and anxiety.

Men feel disconnected from the whole procedure, as if they are passive observers in the creation of their own children. I’ve even heard of one father who wasn’t even present in the same country as his wife when his child was conceived.

Approximately 40% of infertility is due to male problems. Is it right that the women should be exposed to all the risk and pain of IVF to overcome the male’s infertility? And a male’s infertility can be a symptom of serious disease. The failure to fully investigate this can be the lost chance to treat a potentially serious problem.

Some centres will not accept older couples, as they have a lower chance of success. This is to improve the success rating of the treatment centre, rather than for the benefit of the couple.

The cost of the treatment is very high. Here in New Zealand there is some public funding available for those who meet the criteria. For those that don’t, it’s upwards of $10 000 per cycle, and nearly $30 000 for a typical 3 cycle treatment.  This is far more than many can afford. Is it just that only the wealthy can have children?

The heartache doesn’t stop when the treatment ends. For couples who are unsuccessful, there is no clearly defined end of treatment. Would one more cycle give them the baby they want? And often there is no reason found for their inability to have a baby.

There is immediate relief for couples who get a baby. But frequently there are ‘leftover’ embryos. Currently in excess of 10 000 in New Zealand alone. Many couples end their treatment with no intention of having more children. But frequently they correctly identify these embryos as being the siblings of the children they already have at home. They don’t want to bring them to birth, but they don’t have any morally acceptable alternatives. They see them as theirs, so they don’t want to donate them to others. And because they have some understanding of their humanity, they don’t want them destroyed by the clinic or by medical researchers. So every time the bill for cold storage arrives, there is a repeat of the anxiety. In the past many couples just paid the bill and put off making a decision. But now they will be forced to make the decision after 10 years. These dilemmas aren’t adequately considered before starting IVF.

There are new morally acceptable fertility treatments available under the banner of NaProTechnology. These treatments diagnose problems with fertility, and then treat them and work with a women’s natural cycle. The babies that result are born from an act of love, rather than a medical technique in a petri dish. For New Zealanders, the closest doctors are in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia. But there are several practitioners in New Zealand who can start couples off with charting their fertility. That information can later be used by the overseas doctors. NaProTechnology is very successful helping couples with fertility problems to become pregnant. It also helps with many other gynaecological problems. And even for the couple who it can’t help to have a baby, at least it often tells them what the problem is with their fertility. For many, this can be a comfort. After 3 years of practising natural family planning 55% of subfertile couple conceive naturally. NaProTechnology results in even more couples having babies, and sooner.

It there is one last solution for those who wish to have children, who are infertile. It’s adoption. With the queues of people lining up for fertility treatment, how can we say that the more than 14 000 children aborted last year were “unwanted”?

1 comment on “St John Paul II, Pope of the family”

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

3 comments on “Frozen with an expiry date”

Frozen with an expiry date

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November 22nd this year will be a bad day to be an embryonic New Zealander in vitro.

That’s the first deadline of the 2004 HART (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology) act. All embryos in New Zealand that have been frozen for 10 years or more will be destroyed on that date, unless their parents obtain specific permission by May this year. That permission to extend frozen storage must be granted from an ethics committee, not the facility storing the embryos. One chain of fertility clinics says 350 couples or women will be affected at this deadline. And with over 10 000 embryos in storage in New Zealand, it’s only the start of this issue.

So why are there so many frozen embryos?

IVF has a relatively low success rate per cycle and per embryo. This is particularly true for older women. So to achieve a birth, many embryos and several cycles of IVF may be needed. As there is the expectation that several cycles of IVF may be needed, many oocytes (eggs) are removed from the women and fertilised at once. The ‘best looking’ ones are used for the first cycle of IVF and the remaining embryos are frozen as backups if the first cycle isn’t successful, or if the couple want subsequent children.

The process of removing eggs from a women is very invasive and carries real risks for the women. So it’s not something that the medical staff want to put the woman through repeatedly. It is possible to freeze unfertilised eggs rather than embryo, but currently frozen eggs are far less successful for achieving pregnancy. Embryos survive freezing much more successfully, so the clinics fertilise the extracted eggs, both to implant into the women and to store frozen.

If a cycle results in a live birth, the remaining embryos are left in frozen storage, unless the couple wants another child, or they decide to destroy the embryos.

So it’s the inefficiency and risks of the process that results in the temptation to make ‘excess’ embryos. Most of the embryos that are created don’t survive. Some are discarded after fertilisation. Some don’t survive the freezing and thawing, and are discarded. And many that are implanted don’t survive to birth. And many just remain in storage, with their parents not knowing what to do with them.

Throughout this process, and particularly when the embryos are in frozen storage, they are considered property. And tied to this is the attitude that parents have the right to have children.

The Church considers children to be a gift, not property or something that the parents are owed (CCC 2378). She also teaches that a child’s origin should be an act of love between his or her parents. In this way the child’s interests are put first. And as the weakest party, it should always be the child’s interests that are considered first.

This doesn’t mean all infertile couples are condemned to be childless. IVF isn’t the only answer that medicine has for infertility. Originally it was to be the last resort for couples who had trouble conceiving. It has now all but replaced the more conventional approach of diagnosing the specific problem and providing a therapy for that problem, where possible.

But the result of this attitude to children is the large numbers of embryonic children are in frozen storage in New Zealand and around the world. For most of them, it’s a death sentence. The ones that survive are treated for at least some of their life as possessions of their parents. Unfortunately this feeling of entitlement to children is spreading, and was very evident in the recent marriage legislation debate.

For the sake of our children, we need to defend the right of a child to be born from an act of marital love, and to parents known to him or her.