Does technology have the answers?

By | September 30, 2009

Not for Carolyn or her husband, Sean. The baby boy she carried for nearly nine months has gone home to his real parents – Paul and Shannon Morell of suburban Detroit.

You see, there was a mistake at the fertility clinic in Louisiana where the Savages went in February. And where the Morells also went.

Believing that they were receiving an implantation of the last of the embryos they had used to conceive their daughter, Mary Kate, in 2007, the Savages went home in February, told that Carolyn was carrying a viable embryo. Turned out, though, that someone at the clinic made a mistake and the embryo implanted was actually the child of the Morells.

The Savages, who have two sons as well as Mary Kate, said that their Catholic faith would not allow them to terminate the pregnancy after the clinic informed them of the error. Carolyn carried the baby to term, knowing that she would give him up at birth to the Morells.

In a statement released to the press after the birth, the Savages said: “We wish Paul, Shannon, their twin girls and their new baby boy the best, as they move forward with their lives together.”

What a bittersweet moment – to bring a baby into the world. And to have to give it away.

Yes, it is something like the story of the two mothers and King Solomon. The one where the real mother was willing to give up the child, rather than see it killed. Give him up so that he could live.

However, this is also not like the story of King Solomon. Because the Hebrew mothers in the Bible story had given birth to their own children. There was no confusion about that. All Solomon had to do was decide who had given birth to which baby. Not who had conceived that baby in the first place. Or what to do after such a mix-up.

Now, besides the pain of giving up a child they had nurtured for months, that had heard their voices in the womb, that had lived under Carolyn’s heartbeat, let’s add to the Savages’ story all the future pain of forever wondering what happened to their own child, that little embryo conceived in a fertility clinic and lost there.

It is just one more reason why Catholic Church teaching against fertility clinics and in vitro fertilization makes sense. Heart sense, as well as head sense.

The church teaches that every child deserves to be conceived in the loving embrace of its mother and father, not in a test tube or in the body of a surrogate. Every child is a gift from God, not a right of humans.

Besides the health risks to the mother in the super-ovulation process used to get eggs for in vitro fertilization, besides the morally questionable or downright wrong actions undertaken by both parents and the clinic staff that results in the embryos, besides the fact that most of the embryos conceived in this way are culled for viability (meaning who lives and who dies is decided by a technician), and besides the fact that many of the implanted embryos will die before coming to term, there is this basic fact:

The parents – like the Savages – will never know what happened to their babies. This is true even for those parents who do conceive a child in this fashion. They will never know what happened to all the other embryos, all the other human persons – flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone – that came into existence in a clinic.

It’s a heart-rending reality that would have kept Solomon awake all night. And it should keep us awake too.

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