Egg freezing: A work benefit?

Two leading technology companies, Apple and Facebook, are funding their workers or ‘partners’ to have their eggs frozen for future IVF. This is already covered by Facebook’s employee benefit plan, and Apple plans to introduce it in the 2015. Both companies will be offering a US$20 000 benefit for reproductive technologies including egg freezing, surrogacy and IVF.

These companies have been accused of offering egg freezing so female employees can focus on their work and leave the family until later. That’s certainly how many are seeing this move, including some who think it’s a good thing, as well as those who see it as exploitation. This is still a problem from the career point of view. After the age of 35, the success of using frozen eggs drops. And that’s still well before most careers peak.

But that is the least of the problems. Egg freezing will invariably lead to IVF, and IVF is very wasteful on human life. With current success rates, less than ten percent of embryos that are created survive to birth. Those that do survive suffer higher rates of abnormalities than children conceived naturally.

The process of egg freezing as a ‘benefit’ is a troubling development in modern parenting. It changes the attitudes and motivations of parenting. Children normally come from the loving embrace of their parents. This physical act of love causes a child to be born from love of their parents. With frozen eggs these babies start life in a plastic dish after a commercial transaction. And increasingly these babies are being born to people who aren’t their biological parents. So children will be seen less as a gift, and more as a product or a right. Either way the child becomes a means to an ends, with parental satisfaction becoming more important than respecting the dignity and rights of the child.

One fertility expert expects egg freezing to become standard for professional women. At US$10 000 to US$13 000 a time and US$500 a year for storage it could be a lucrative business. However, fertility experts recommend freezing at least 18 eggs. It might require two or more egg retrievals to collect that many eggs. For egg collection, the woman undergoes weeks of hormone injections followed by an invasive procedure to remove her eggs, many more than she would naturally release. This is risky for the women. So the temptation will be to try maximise the number of eggs from a single retrieval, which increases the risk of this potentially dangerous and invasive procedure. When a woman chooses to use frozen eggs, she will find that her choice of family size is greatly restricted. She might only have enough eggs stored to have one or possibly two children. The option to have more children later is probably gone. So egg freezing can become a family planning program too. Effectively a one or two child policy.

These companies also cover surrogacy too. So reproduction risks becoming something that professional women contract out. This is because by the time most careers are hitting their peak, a woman’s fertility has dropped to the point her chances of having a baby survive IVF are very low without a younger surrogate mother.

So Apple and Facebook’s ‘benefits’, substantially change family and parenting. Little regard is held for the lives of the children before birth. They become just another item on the ‘bucket list’. The link between the love of parents and the love of the child is removed and little regard is held for the life of the child before implantation.

And they call this a benefit?

Advertisements

The Wrong of rights

Teenagers are often accused of thinking that the world revolves around them. This phase usually passes especially after heading out into the ‘real world’ and discovering that they are but a ‘cog’ in the enormous kaleidoscope of life.

We observe that the unspoken catch-phrase “It’s about me” is anything but limited to teens. Indeed, many adults proclaim this mantra or similar, particularly in the sexual sphere.

It never ceases to amaze at the incessant trumpeting “It’s my right” and directly linked to this, “It’s my body, my choice”, slogans which have been internalised and are hardly ever questioned today. These slogans are certainly reflective of a culture that has embraced individualism, where the ‘right’ of the individual is said to be paramount.

As part of our human condition, it is self-evident that selfishness occupies a central aspect. That is why as parents, we teach our kids to think of others, to give or simply to let go. In other words, to share. Many of us recall quite vividly, our parents repeating the phrases, “there are others worse off than you in the world” or the old favourite which invariably brings a smile to your face; “finish your food, there are people starving in Africa”. When we observe our kids or others in society giving or simply thinking of others, we feel a degree of satisfaction, a sense of warmth. We feel good. So as selfishness is looked upon negatively, giving and thoughtfulness has the opposite effect.

How is it then that many societies have retreated into an introspective mentality? One that exalts selfishness and worse, proclaims it a right!

This “rights revolution” according to Marguerite Peeters has been and still is the “main weapon used in the west to deconstruct human, cultural and religious tradition”. Under the guise of this self-proclaimed “rights”, societies have been transformed by contraception, abortion and pornography, and other practices which were once illegal, and sometimes subject to imprisonment. These practices are inward looking with the   focus largely on the individual and their self-satisfaction. Hence the expression, “It’s my right”, which is in essence, a sub-category within the broader, ‘right to choose’.

But what about the right to life? Many are opposed to capital punishment on the basis that it is inhumane, cruel or simply barbaric. Why then does this acknowledged right not extend to the un-deniability of life within the womb? How has the mothers legalized ‘right’ to abortion taken precedence over the child’s right to life?After all, it was unthinkable following World War II.

Today, a wedge has been solidly driven between a mother and her unborn child, so much so that the child is viewed as a threat. And this wedge has a name. It is called a right. But this right is wrong and we know it. We know it because instinctively, we understand that human rights are meant to uphold life and the dignity of the individual. The UN thinks so too, categorically stipulating “appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”. Thus, any ‘right’ that leads to the taking of a child’s life, can never be right. In fact, it is wrong.

I would suggest then, that ideology, rather than care about women or children, as being the key driver behind the abortion industry. The “rights revolution” has made inroads to normalising what was unthinkable in the not too distant past.

Money is the primary motive.

Life affirming ultrasound

Ultrasound PhotoI recently had the experience of sitting in on a 19 week pregnancy scan. For my wife and I it was the first chance to see our new child and as such, we were both looking forward to it.

For many couples, the first pregnancy ultrasound is the first bonding experience they have with their new child.  Before the days of ultrasound, a mother’s first bonding to the new baby was started when she first felt the baby moving, but increasingly, the ultrasound is the first experience that mothers and fathers have with their new child.  This is recognised by medical researchers. It’s also probably been a factor in society’s increasing recognition of the humanity of the pre born child.

Forming this relationship between parents and the child is important. The strength of the bond will affect many outcomes for the child, particularly for the child’s education.

I have personally found a great deal of difference between sonographers.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Shari Richard at work, and seen her infectious enthusiasm for the unborn child, and the positive effect it has on the child’s parents.  Few sonographers can match her enthusiasm.  I’ve seen other sonographers at work, including one working on me, although she wasn’t going to find a baby and wasn’t looking for one!  They differ greatly in the way they interact with parents about their new baby.  The most recent sonographer we had always referred to our child as ‘baby’, e.g. “This is babies head” etc.

But this isn’t always the case.  We had a scan in a previous pregnancy when the sonographer became very quiet.  Later we found out the reason – she had found a medical problem with our child.  Although it was potentially very serious, a couple of surgeries fixed the problem before it could do any serious damage, and our child now enjoys excellent health.

But why the difference in the response of the sonographer?  Our baby didn’t stop being our baby because he had a medical problem. We certainly didn’t love him any less.

But sonographers and other medical professional are influenced by abortion.  Abortion is considered a solution to many birth defects, so it’s natural for sonographers to moderate their enthusiasm for the baby during scans.

But this could affect the start of the formation of the bond between baby and parents. Crisis Pregnancy Centres have known for a long time the benefit of an expectant mother seeing her baby by ultrasound.  It encourages the bond to form between mother and child.  But ultrasound can be used in a way that doesn’t encourage this bonding.  Clinic profit motives and abortion quotas can affect the way ultrasound results are presented and interpreted.  A recent study of 15 500 women attending Planned Parenthood abortion clinics showed that viewing ultrasound images had very little effect on the mothers decision to abort her child.  It’s hard to imagine the ultrasound technicians in these abortion clinics wanted to present the humanity of the pre-born child and facilitate bonding between mother and child.

Similarly, using ultrasound as a search and destroy mission to eliminate less than perfect is not a good way to encourage bonding. It’s important for the sonographer to show the beauty and humanity of the pre-born child.  This is the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.  It’s the most important relationship, and it deserves a good start.  Children do better when there is good bonding with their parents.  It’s here that the sensitivity to the minority that have abortions, affects the rest of us – and our children.

It is one of the ways that abortion affects us all.

 

The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.

The Pope praises Humanae Vitae

ImageEarly this week an interview of Pope Francis was run by a major Italian newspaper. As is typical with Pope Francis, he is relaxed with the media, and shows a great deal of skill and honesty with his answers. He’s not afraid of the tough questions, and says he even welcomes them when it’s a chance for dialogue.

The interview didn’t avoid any tough questions, it covered the sexual abuse scandal, divorce, remarriage and civil unions, globalisation, Marxism and many other topics.

He also touched on several topics of interest to the pro-life movement, including contraception, and end of life treatment.

He was asked on non-negotiable values, he was adamant that these values are essential. He rejected the idea that these values are like trading cards, which can be swapped and traded, while keeping a few favourites. He compares these ‘values’ to parts of his own body. In his own words:

I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”

The Pope expresses much about values and morals in Evangelii Gaudium. He says that individual doctrines of the Church must be understood as part of the gospel, and joyfully expressed. This links these values to the whole of the Church’s teaching and to the person of Christ himself. So these ‘values’ are no longer dry doctrines, but a living, breathing expression of a Christian’s joyful faith.

The Pope praised Humanae Vitae:

It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae” is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.

Pope PauI VI certainly had the courage to go against the majority. With more than 40 years of experience with contraception, it’s now obvious the damage that it’s causes. When Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae, that damage was much less obvious. But the Pope predicted it accurately. And despite this bold and prophetic proclamation of the truth, document is very gently written, with the heart of a pastor. I think it’s this that resonates with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for confessors to show “much mercy and attention to concrete situations”. This is reminiscent of the much misrepresented comments of Benedict XVI on condoms. It’s not a dilution of the teaching, but working with people to bring them to a full understanding of the truth. In many cases, it will not be an instant conversion. We don’t need to change any teaching or approve of any sin.

Pope Francis is also asked about end of life care for the people in a ‘vegetative state’. The Pope reiterated the Church’s teaching on end of life care. He also acknowledged that he isn’t a bioethicist, and the need for palliative care.

In these answers, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is a “son of the Church”. He follows and protects the doctrines of the Church, but more than that, he wants to show us that they all come from the person of Christ. He wants to make these doctrines or ‘values’ make sense and have a meaning and purpose in the faith of the Christian.

And one year on into his Papacy, the world is still watching and taking notice. Let’s hope that they truly hear the message he preaches.

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

40 Days for Life

40 days of hopeImage

I remember during my early years at university becoming friends with an exchange student from West Germany. When she left her home country, a wall divided it from the communist country of East Germany, and people had been killed for trying to cross that wall. By the time her year in New Zealand was over, Germans could freely travel across the border between the two Germanys, and official German reunification had taken place within a year.

When she came to New Zealand, the fall of the Berlin wall was a distant hope, with few people expecting it to happen within their lifetime. It seemed beyond reasonable for the wall to fall.

But it did.

The flame of resistance within the eastern bloc countries had been lit a decade before when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland. His battle cry, “Be not afraid”, gave the people of Poland hope. A hope that spread throughout Eastern Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

That same battle cry was also for the pro-life movement which was always so close to his heart. We have the Lord himself on our side. No matter how strong the opponents of the ‘Culture of Life” might be, they cannot endure. No matter how strong they seem, or how much they influence government policy, they are running on borrowed time. In fact, the war against them has already been won. It was won on the cross.

And victories are happening.

In the US, there have been a record number of pro-life laws being passed1,2, and it’s bringing abortion rates down. Spain is considering ending abortion on demard3.

So how might an end of abortion look? Especially here in New Zealand?

We have seen the numbers and rates of abortions drop here and New Zealand and in the US as well. And the greatest declines in abortion rates are in the youngest age groups. We can expect this to continue.

There are already shortages of staff willing to participate in abortion4. And this has affected abortion services5. The 40 days for life program includes prayer for medical staff involved in abortion, and has seen 88 workers leave abortion providers. This is something that could easily happen in New Zealand, and we know there are abortion staff in New Zealand who have doubts about their jobs6. They need our prayer.

I have noticed a change in public perception of the pro-life movement. We are now seen as the ones who are helping women. The opposition is still there, and they can still dominate the political process and the media. But the general public are more open to the pro-life message than ever before. I’m constantly surprised by the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about our work helping expectant mums. As in Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, hope is rising. And I can feel the change.

There is still more work to do. More prayer and pro-life work is needed. But slowly the public is seeing that abortion isn’t the solution that they thought it was. One day they will see that it isn’t a solution at all.

We need to hope. We need to pray. And we need to “Be not afraid”.

 

 

Get involved: 40 days for life

 

1.            Johnson, J. Pro-life laws and clinic closures lowered abortion rate: CDC | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2013). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-laws-and-clinic-closures-lowered-abortion-rate-cdc>

2.            Johnson, J. ‘Record number’ of pro-abortion laws being introduced dwarfed by pro-life gains, legal expert says | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2014). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/record-number-of-pro-abortion-laws-being-introduced-dwarfed-by-pro-life-gai>

3.            Metaxas, E. Restricting abortion, Spanish style | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/restricting-abortion-spanish-style>

4.            Board forced to bring outsiders to staff abortion facility -. CathNews N. Z. (2012). at <http://cathnews.co.nz/2012/10/16/board-forced-to-bring-outsiders-to-staff-invercargill-abortion-facility/>

5.            Hill, M. Abortion clinic opens in secrecy to protect staff. Stuff.co.nz (2012). at <http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7813405/Abortion-clinic-opens-in-secrecy-to-protect-staff>

6.            Whelan, M. A day at the clinic. The Wireless at <http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/free/a-day-at-the-clinic>