29 September 2003

Nigeria: Perils of IVF And Surrogate Motherhood


Surrogacy is another attempt to degrade womanhood.

I have followed with keen interest the advent, some weeks ago, of surrogacy in Nigeria performed at a popular clinic in Lagos by one Dr. Richardson Ajayi et al. Let me frankly state that, because something is technically feasible does not mean it is morally admissible. Even the obnoxious practice of assisted conception that is the trade of this Clinic is an area that eventually civilisation would be at a loss to have ventured into. A lot of human beings as zygotes, embryos and foetuses are being killed after being created rather than being allowed to develop into adults! This, on the part of IVF supporters, had made necessary the redefinition of when is the spark of life. To affirm that a new human life starts at fertilization is to restate that IVF, foetal reduction, cyropreservation, contraceptive or surgical abortion, embryo experimenta-tion, embryo farming are crimes against humanity and the dignity of the human being. We need not kill some babies in order to provide babies for others, nor do we need to treat another's ailment by rearing other human embryos for the sole purpose of using them as spare parts. To do otherwise is basically a trajectory of reverse civilization under the pretext of medical progress and solving infertility problems. It is criminal.

Morbidity and mortality

In an advertorial splashed on a newspaper, this same clinic was being congratulated on the birth of its 200th baby through in vitro fertilization. It should be noted that in producing this 200th baby, at least 6000 other babies have been or would still be destroyed because of the very procedures of IVF and the later destruction of the unused fertilized eggs! Even if it is homologous IVF, that is, a case where the donors are a married couple, the fact that many embryos were fertilized from several ova in the test tube and transferred to the woman's womb, afterwards reduced (read kill) to one because of the women's morbidity and mortality rate that is high as a result of multiple pregnancies from this obnoxious conception therapy. In US, as much as six embryos are transferred back to the womb for implantation then reduced to one or two depending on the consensus reached between the medical counsel and the patients' desire.

I do not even want to look at the ethics surrounding heterologous IVF in which it is another man's sperm or another woman's oocytes that will be used to get a baby for an infertile couple because it is merely a distraction from the fundamental ethical basis of IVF itself. Although the Clinic, through its propaganda industry is switching public attention to mere functional ethics of its practice, calling for national regulations to manage public views on infertility management (the odious political correctness), to standardiseprocedures according to best practices (their own), to prevent the practice from being all cats, all dogs affair (market monopoly), to prevent potential abuses and maintain credibility of practitioners; but the question of the fundamental ethics whether or not IVF or surrogacy is right, is left undiscussed.

That human life or pregnancy starts at fertilization and not at implantation is not open to disputation nor ethical correctness, that is the belief that nothing is right should there be other perspectives and since people are entitled to their opinions as a matter of human rights, nothing is correct only our individual views on the matter counts. This is condemnable. When the blastocyst comprising trophoectoderm cells, which goes to form the placenta, and the inner cell mass that continues to develop into other human features, hatches and is embedded on the wall of the uterus, it is called implantation. Pre-embryo, zygote, blastocyst, morula, foetus are just biological vocabularies referring to the successive stages of human development in the womb. They are not appellations of potential human beings instead they are appellations of human beings with potentials. Therefore they deserve the respect and treatment corresponding to any other person. They must not be subjected to any form of embryo transfer (ET), storing, experimentation or stem cell research or cloning.

Furthermore, a process that a woman, who is genetically a stranger to the embryo to carry the pregnancy with the pledge to surrender the baby once it is born to the party or commission who made agreement for the pregnancy is morally repugnant.

Genetic motherhood

Genetic motherhood, gestational motherhood, and metaphysical motherhood are all elemental constituents in a mother. Research has revealed that intimacy (or lack of it) between the mother and child develops right from pregnancy when the child learns to distinguish between its mother's voice and strangers' voices, listens to the pulses of its mother's heart and being conditioned by the rhythms of her life style. In addition, the stem cells of babies are said to have been found in their mothers even after 30 years of birth! These are why a woman's heart skips a beat when danger befalls her kid even in a distant land. Surrogacy has a commitment to shatter these bonds. As Dr Ajayi himself acknowledges if you allow the surrogate mother to start breast feeding the child, strong links would be developed and that may defeat the whole essence (o-oh!) So the surrogated baby will have to be handed immediately to the commissioning couple and be bottle-fed.

Womanhood has been degraded so often with gender discrimination, wife battery, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, prostitution, contraceptives with their callous side effects, genital mutilation, etc. Surrogacy is another attempt in this direction. The womb of a woman, as asserted Morenike Taire, Vanguard columnist, is not like a cupboard or a refrigerator where you keep something and come back to find it as you left it. The unusually high rate of infertility among women nowadays is an outcome of the rigorous sex they have been exposed to from their teenage years, contraceptive consumption with its unsung fallouts, and multiple abortions.

allowed to foreclose other options open to combat infertility that would not subject the human origin to subject of vulgar determinism. Human life is still sacred. The basis of IVF, surrogate motherhood and sundry practices is allergic to morality. Further developments would only inspire other immoralities. We have to make them a tough procedure to follow. We need to construct an order before crises impose one as a necessity. By then many waters of life may have passed irrevocably under the bridge.

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