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Home News Laura Keynes: The new pro-life frontier. IVF is a business like any other

Laura Keynes: The new pro-life frontier. IVF is a business like any other

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I hadn’t heard of Sofia Vergara until recently but she’s well known in the US where she’s TV’s highest paid actress and star of the hit series Modern Family. The 42-year-old has been making headlines because she’s locked in a legal battle with her ex-partner over two frozen embryos they created together in 2014, with the aim of having a child through IVF and surrogacy.

Nick Loeb, the ex-partner and a millionaire businessman, split with Vergara after it became clear that he wanted a family and she didn’t. He’s now fighting to have the stored embryos implanted into a surrogate because, in his words, the split “doesn’t mean I should let the two lives I have already created be destroyed or sit in a freezer until the end of time.”

He has written an Op-ed in the New York Times defending his court action and asking, “When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property?”

In the US, where IVF is a business much like any other, embryos are treated as ‘property’ by the legal system, rather than as embryonic human beings. Loeb is fighting to get this view overturned, and to void a contract he and Vergara signed stating that any embryos they created could be brought to term only with the consent of both parties. Loeb writes, “Does one person’s desire to avoid biological parenthood (free of any legal obligations) outweigh another’s religious beliefs in the sanctity of life and the desire to be a parent?”

It’s a bit rich for Loeb to be talking about the sanctity of life now, after having created several embryos with Vergara (two previous attempts at implantation failed), but he is nonetheless taking responsibility for his actions in having created these embryos. Vergara, it seems, would be happy to leave them in storage indefinitely – out of sight, out of mind.

The fate of stored embryos has become a new pro-life frontier. I was recently chatting away to someone at a dinner party, when it transpired that he and his wife had adopted an unwanted embryo. He explained that as he was Catholic and his wife was a (liberal) Jewish Rabbi, IVF was out of the question when they discovered they were infertile, since it involved the destruction of embryos. Instead they had decided to adopt and carry to term an unwanted embryo, created through IVF and earmarked for destruction. He got out his phone and showed me a video of that embryo as a now beautiful little girl playing with her toys.

Embryo adoption is ethically complex and the Catholic Church states only that the fate of “abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.”

In the US, ultimately it will be pro-life/pro-abortion politics that determine how the Loeb vs. Vergara case goes. Pro-abortion lobbyists already realize the implications for their cause if the frozen embryos are given human status. Not only that, but Loeb is the latest hate figure for feminists who think that Loeb’s court action is tantamount to ‘reproductive coercion’ and ‘abuse’. They’re already calling out the New York Times for giving Loeb a ‘platform to harass his ex’ and so on ad nauseam.

Loeb has acknowledged his responsibility as a father, yet he’s roundly trounced by these so-called feminists. They should be lauding Loeb for doing the decent thing by his children, and appalled at Vergara’s callow attitude towards life and her desire to instrumentalise another women as a surrogate.

However as the case goes, it’s just another sad tale of all the complications that follow when people treat human life as a commodity to be created at a whim, bought and sold, and destroyed without thought.

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Laura Keynes
Laura Keynes
Dr Keynes is a Cambridge-based academic, writer and critic with two very young children. She writes for Standpoint magazine, the Catholic Herald and The Tablet. Find her on twitter @LMKeynes.

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