A miscarriage of common sense

If there is one single person who has compounded the issues of overpopulation and unadopted children, it is Robert Edwards.

If there is one single person who has compounded the issues of overpopulation and unadopted children, it is Robert Edwards. His life’s work has led to condemnations from the Vatican, controversy over scientific breakthroughs and a new definition of what it means to create life. Thirty-two years after his first “success,” Robert Edwards is receiving the Nobel Prize in medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization.

Awarding the Nobel Prize to Edwards sends the wrong message to the world. His innovations have commercialized conception, reduced adoption rates and led to the creation of four million more mouths to feed in this already overpopulated world. It is socially, economically and morally irresponsible, and it should not be praised with such a prestigious honor.

In vitro fertilization (IVF), the process by which an embryo is created outside of the body and implanted into a woman’s uterus in the hopes of combating infertility, is an industry that sees tens of thousands of new clients each year. These people, age 36 on average, spend approximately $13,000 per cycle of IVF, with most people only conceiving successfully after three cycles. Much of this is out of pocket, too—most health insurance providers will pay very little of the cost, as it is not a “medical necessity” and in fact creates more risks than it treats. The price to create life, then, is quite high with IVF.

With the onset of IVF, the world has also seen a decrease in adoption rates. A report published in 2008 by the Florida International University Institute for the Study of Labor found that with more people seeking assisted reproductive technology such as IVF, there has also been a decrease in domestic adoptions. The study also found that while many people receiving in vitro therapy consider adoption, most see it as a last resort if IVF does not work. The number of children awaiting adoption rises every day, with society paying the tab for their care, while people throw tens of thousands of dollars into IVF treatments in the hopes that they can have a baby with their DNA.

In vitro fertilization has led to the births of approximately four million babies over the past 32 years, and the number of IVF births rises every day at an almost exponential rate. Each of these births represents another step toward exceeding the earth’s carrying capacity for humans, especially considering that before IVF was developed, the parents of these children would have been significantly more likely to adopt existing children rather than insist on creating a new one. Nonprofit organizations are even trying to bring free IVF clinics to more locations worldwide, opening the doors for thousands more people to assist in this noble act of overpopulating our planet.

Some people argue that a family cannot be complete without biological children or that adoption does not guarantee the unconditional love between parents and offspring. They also say that society discriminates against the infertile, suggesting even that it has been hammered into them that they cannot be fulfilled without birthing their own children, and that this is one of the main reasons IVF is so necessary. Subjectively, there are many reasons why people use and defend IVF.

Objectively, however, there are very few reasons why IVF could be good for the world at large. One of the only reasons is the harvesting and use of human stem cells from unused embryos for research for medical treatments. But this practice is controversial, with many groups protesting the use of “human beings” in such a manner.

And the complications of IVF can leave the human body a wreck. Among the complications just from preparing for the procedure are an increase in the risk of ruptured ovaries, ovarian cysts, migraines, dizziness, vision-related problems, weight gain and depression. Once a woman has conceived using IVF, more problems can and do arise: multiple pregnancy (a greater number of implanted embryos than a woman can carry safely), miscarriage, hemorrhage, preeclampsia and premature birth. The underlying causes of a woman’s inability to carry can, in some cases, even cause birth defects should she force it through IVF.

There can be no debate that Robert Edwards’ innovation was brilliant. It revolutionized fertility treatments and deepened the understanding of conception and life itself. But even brilliance is not without negative consequence, and his has led to complications that the world will be feeling for generations. The Nobel Prize in medicine should go to someone who heals and whose work makes life for all people better. Robert Edwards is not that someone. ?