Thirty years later, ironies of life issue abound
By Tony Staley
Next Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade,
the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand.
Since the ruling was issued in 1973, millions of lives have been
lost to abortion, all the while science has made numerous
discoveries to help women have babies.
Some of these scientific methods are in line with church
teaching, while others, such as in-vitro fertilization are
not. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church says procreation
must be through the sexual act by husband and wife, paras
Thus, while millions of unborn humans are being slaughtered
through abortion, many couples will go to almost any length to have
a baby. Just what sacrifices they will make were detailed in
"Personal History: Countdown to a Baby" (The New Yorker,
7/1/02) by Michael Ryan, a writer and poet living in Los
Ryan tells how he and his wife, Doreen, also a poet, turned to
science after natural means failed. First, they tried intrauterine
inseminations nine times in 15 months. When that failed, there were
12 daily injections (cost, $3,674.50) into Doreen's thigh so that
her body would produce eggs for in-vitro fertilization.
The eggs were harvested in a surgical procedure known as a
suction trap. They were incubated, then artificially inseminated
with sperm and left to grow three days in a petri dish. Then, using
a catheter, four 4-8 cell embryos were injected into Doreen's
uterus (this increases the odds that Doreen, who is 37, will
eventually give birth to at least one baby).
For the next two weeks Doreen had to remain immobile in bed,
while receiving nightly injections of progesterone in oil. Every
third night she was also in injected with estradiol valerate. The
injections went directly into a muscle using a two-inch needle.
After two weeks, the embryos had implanted themselves in the
uterus, but the daily injections continued for another eight weeks
and she had to have a blood test every-other-day.
In the sixth week of the pregnancy, the Ryans learned that
Doreen was expecting quadruplets (two were identical twins). Her
doctor recommended aborting three babies.
But, Ryan writes, "the embryos are all alive, and it makes me
shiver to think of choosing which is to be killed. The smallest and
weakest? Would the twins have a better chance, or the ones in their
own sacs? What if you kill some and the remaining ones die
A week later, one baby died and they learned that the twins were
conjoined at the abdomen. The twins died the next week.
Eventually, Doreen gave birth to the only baby who did not die
during the pregnancy, a girl -- Emily -- who is now two.
As gripping and heart-rending as Ryan's account is, it verifies
the rightness of the church teaching on reproduction. The Ryans'
story also shows how tragic it is to abort the lives that others
deeply crave and will seek at great financial and physical