When Eggs are Precious and Babies Aren’t

The Washington Post in the past week published two pieces that clearly show the double standard that exists when it comes to the value (or lack thereof) society places on the unborn. First, columnist Ruth Marcus, with unbridled (and frightening) pride, announced she would have aborted a Down syndrome-diagnosed child, if she learned she was carrying one. Critics found Marcus’ arguments downright ghastly:

I have had two children; I was old enough, when I became pregnant, that it made sense to do the testing for Down syndrome. Back then, it was amniocentesis, performed after 15 weeks; now, chorionic villus sampling can provide a conclusive determination as early as nine weeks. I can say without hesitation that, tragic as it would have felt and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.

I respect — I admire — families that knowingly welcome a baby with Down syndrome into their lives. Certainly, to be a parent is to take the risks that accompany parenting; you love your child for who she is, not what you want her to be.

But accepting that essential truth is different from compelling a woman to give birth to a child whose intellectual capacity will be impaired, whose life choices will be limited, whose health may be compromised. Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive impairment, meaning an IQ between 55 and 70 (mild) or between 35 and 55 (moderate). This means limited capacity for independent living and financial security; Down syndrome is life-altering for the entire family.

Marcus was arguing against recently passed state laws banning abortion when the reason is a Down syndrome diagnosis. She is right that under Roe V. Wade, such laws will not pass constitutional muster. But what was shocking to some people is that even Marcus seemed to understand she was arguing in favor of eugenics, and that her piece essentially boasted of her own selfishness (something else Marcus seemed to understand). A baby less than the baby she or other women want is useless enough to be thrown away. Whether she likes it nor, that’s what she’s arguing. No child with Downs is worth the effort.
Now, compare and contrast that with a piece the Post published Sunday. It depicts the loss of frozen eggs and embryos at a San Francisco fertility clinic as a disaster:

A long-established San Francisco fertility clinic experienced a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank holding thousands of frozen eggs and embryos for future use, jeopardizing tissue hundreds of women had stored in hopes of having children.

The March 4 incident at Pacific Fertility Clinic, acknowledged Sunday by the facility’s president, followed a similar malfunction the same weekend at an unrelated clinic in Cleveland, the University Hospitals Fertility Center.

The two episodes carry powerful emotional and financial consequences, and come as the number of women freezing their eggs has soared in recent years. Although individual women have reported having frozen eggs damaged in storage or in transit, a spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a major professional organization, said such large-scale incidents appear to be unprecedented.

Egg-freezing has grown in popularity as more and more women attempt to push back motherhood to a later age. And there are have been several stories in recent months of how heartbroken women are when they discover their harvested eggs are no longer viable. The New York Times reports that a lawsuit has been filed in the Ohio clinic failure.

The Ashes say they stored two embryos at a University Hospitals fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland after Elliott’s cancer diagnosis in 2003. They say they were told over the weekend that their embryos are no longer viable.

The hospital is still investigating the cause of the problem, which was discovered March 4, the same day the San Francisco clinic suffered a similar failure.

“It’s heartbreaking, just heartbreaking,” Amber Ash told WEWS-TV. “The medical community calls it tissue. I like to think of it as my children.”
The couple has a 2-year-old son conceived through in-vitro fertilization and hoped to bring him a genetic sibling.
The contrast between the two articles is stunning. A woman in Ohio learns that two stored embryos are no longer viable, and she considers their loss to be a loss of two children. Ruth Marcus cavalierly announces in a newspaper column that she was discard a second trimester baby because it didn’t meet her quality standards.
Science may never answer the question of whether an embryo is human life. Marcus’ belief system notwithstanding, no reasonable person can claim that a baby in the second trimester, between 13 weeks and 27 weeks of development is not a human being.

Abortion on demand by its very nature devalues human life. But Marcus’ belief system takes us even a notch lower. Even a wanted baby can suddenly become unwanted if it’s not “the baby that I wanted.” She seems to understand that this opens the door to a dark new world but doesn’t care. The right to abortion trumps concerns about a society built on preselection.
And it makes you wonder. What would any of the families who lost embryos in the Ohio and San Francisco clinics say if they were given the option of adopting an unborn Down syndrome child, or having the mother abort the baby?

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