June 1, 2005

Don't worry, Peter, I'll get back to the adolescent girl groups soon

More on the campaign to ban IVF. In my first post I said total opposition to IVF was "the logical end" of Bush's position on embryos. Slate's Liza Mundy does some actual reporting and finds that indeed, the embryo adoption agency Bush did his photo op with "opposes IVF medicine because of what doctors rather antiseptically refer to as 'embryo wastage' but tries to make the best of the situation by giving some of them a living future. Like conventional pro-life groups, Snowflakes even does 'rescues,' springing into action whenever it hears about a couple on the verge of no longer paying storage fees."

I'm not sure what 'rescues' means in this context, but it hints at something else I thought about. Embryo storage costs about $1,000 a year. Making some very rough estimates that (500,000 frozen embryos total at, say, five per couple) the annual cost of storage is about $100 million per year. If it's that important to Snowflakes, or Sam Brownback, or George Bush, or society that these embryos not be donated for research or destroyed, why don't they, or the taxpayers, pick up the tab?

Anyway, there's lots of interesting stuff in Mundy's article. One thing that's left vague is the following: " Typically, embryos are frozen in tubes called straws, a few at a time; depending on how many embryos were created to begin with and how many were used, an IVF patient might have one, two, or 12 left over. To maximize a recipient's chances of success, agencies will guarantee a minimum number of embryos, and if this means mixing two or three groups of unrelated embies (as they're called), so be it."

Mundy introduces this concept in order to point out that "a woman receiving donor embryos can gestate twins that are genetically unrelated. It would be intriguing to know if, when he was proffering the Snowflakes babies, the president fully appreciated what a freaky, cutting-edge niche of reproductive medicine he was endorsing."

True enough, but I wonder whether Snowflakes insists that every embryo that is adopted is implanted immediately, and how it balances the risks that implies, considering that it doesn't have the option that IVF clinics do of choosing the best embryos, saving remainders for a second round, or selectively reducing.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


This is going to sound completely self-interested: but to me, the logical end to this is just as scary (if not moreso) than flipping over Roe V. Wade.

I don't know if I'd put it on a par with flipping Roe v. Wade, which would inevitably lead to an increase in unsafe abortion and all the complications--including death--related to that, but it would be really REALLY bad and a horrible injustice.

My two kids (full disclosure, I'm Radosh's wife) are the products of IVF and I feel so lucky to have been able to avail myself of this technology. Were it to be outlawed, it would be terrifically difficult (though probably not impossible) to provide blackmarket IVF, given the amount of equipment and infrastructure needed. The cost would be more exorbitant than it already is. People who could afford to do so, could travel to other countries to obtain IVF, but the rest of us would have to accept our infertility. Not quite death, but pretty bad.

Gina - While the consequences of restricting IVF may not be as severe as flipping Roe v. Wade, the "embryo adoption" rhetoric used by Snowflakes et al certainly suggests a broader, anti-choice agenda, as I'm sure you realize. From a legal standpoint, children are "adopted," not masses of cryopreserved tissue. Although adoption (and assisted reproduction) laws vary widely from state to state, I know of no state that permits "adoption" of a child before birth. It's very alarming to think that this legal rubric would be applied to embryos, and to consider the consequences for reproductive choice. I haven't yet read the Salon article Radosh discusses, but I hope it contains some analysis on this issue.

I was jerking off to the Huckapoo post a little earlier. Do I need to save my man batter for Snowflakes? 'Cause somewhere in those tissues is a life that needs to be saved. Maybe I could just spooge right in James Dobson's face and let him worry about storage.

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