Frozen with an expiry date


November 22nd this year will be a bad day to be an embryonic New Zealander in vitro.

That’s the first deadline of the 2004 HART (Human Assisted Reproductive Technology) act. All embryos in New Zealand that have been frozen for 10 years or more will be destroyed on that date, unless their parents obtain specific permission by May this year. That permission to extend frozen storage must be granted from an ethics committee, not the facility storing the embryos. One chain of fertility clinics says 350 couples or women will be affected at this deadline. And with over 10 000 embryos in storage in New Zealand, it’s only the start of this issue.

So why are there so many frozen embryos?

IVF has a relatively low success rate per cycle and per embryo. This is particularly true for older women. So to achieve a birth, many embryos and several cycles of IVF may be needed. As there is the expectation that several cycles of IVF may be needed, many oocytes (eggs) are removed from the women and fertilised at once. The ‘best looking’ ones are used for the first cycle of IVF and the remaining embryos are frozen as backups if the first cycle isn’t successful, or if the couple want subsequent children.

The process of removing eggs from a women is very invasive and carries real risks for the women. So it’s not something that the medical staff want to put the woman through repeatedly. It is possible to freeze unfertilised eggs rather than embryo, but currently frozen eggs are far less successful for achieving pregnancy. Embryos survive freezing much more successfully, so the clinics fertilise the extracted eggs, both to implant into the women and to store frozen.

If a cycle results in a live birth, the remaining embryos are left in frozen storage, unless the couple wants another child, or they decide to destroy the embryos.

So it’s the inefficiency and risks of the process that results in the temptation to make ‘excess’ embryos. Most of the embryos that are created don’t survive. Some are discarded after fertilisation. Some don’t survive the freezing and thawing, and are discarded. And many that are implanted don’t survive to birth. And many just remain in storage, with their parents not knowing what to do with them.

Throughout this process, and particularly when the embryos are in frozen storage, they are considered property. And tied to this is the attitude that parents have the right to have children.

The Church considers children to be a gift, not property or something that the parents are owed (CCC 2378). She also teaches that a child’s origin should be an act of love between his or her parents. In this way the child’s interests are put first. And as the weakest party, it should always be the child’s interests that are considered first.

This doesn’t mean all infertile couples are condemned to be childless. IVF isn’t the only answer that medicine has for infertility. Originally it was to be the last resort for couples who had trouble conceiving. It has now all but replaced the more conventional approach of diagnosing the specific problem and providing a therapy for that problem, where possible.

But the result of this attitude to children is the large numbers of embryonic children are in frozen storage in New Zealand and around the world. For most of them, it’s a death sentence. The ones that survive are treated for at least some of their life as possessions of their parents. Unfortunately this feeling of entitlement to children is spreading, and was very evident in the recent marriage legislation debate.

For the sake of our children, we need to defend the right of a child to be born from an act of marital love, and to parents known to him or her.


Eugenic thought is alive and well in New Zealand

eugenic-marriageThe furore caused by Michael Law’s recent comments regarding eradicating Down syndrome should not surprise anyone.  Eugenic thought is alive and well in New Zealand, and has been for some time.

Laws, who is a Whanganui District Health Board Member, updated his Facebook status on December 8 to read

I think most women, having discovered they’re carrying a Downs Syndrome foetus, would abort. Dear Lord, very natural reaction. Incredibly though there are a group of DS activists (the parents of) who want to DENY this test to expectant mothers because they think it has the potential to eradicate Downs Syndrome. And I’m thinking: what a bloody fantastic achievement that would be. Next: multiple sclerosis.

Yes, Laws wants to eradicate people who have Down syndrome and all of those who don’t fit into his perfect little box of what a human being should achieve in life and how they should look and behave.  But that’s nothing new.

Don’t forget that Laws championed the Death with Dignity Bill in 1995, which failed to pass.

In Law’s world legal euthanasia would be ideal as all the “unfit” could be exterminated post birth.

The comments on Law’s Facebook page make for interesting reading.  Many are pro-abortion – especially when the unborn child is found to have Down syndrome or any other condition which ignites the flame of fear.

It seems that “choice” is what it all comes down to.

The “choice” of someone with power to take the life of someone with no power and no voice.

An idea that is at the heart of eugenics.

Every time the reproductive habits of beneficiaries comes under the spotlight, forced sterilisation and mandatory contraception are put forward as legitimate and very appropriate solutions by those who wish to see less children from the “unfit”.

The Government has gone some way to make that type of thinking policy.  Through WINZ, the additional costs incurred in accessing Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives such as Jadelle, Depo Provera and IUDs can be met for beneficiaries and their daughters aged 16 years or older.  These costs, controversially, include travel costs, thereby removing any perceived “barrier” to access for those who fit the criteria.

Tubal ligation is routinely offered to Polynesian women, who have poorer backgrounds.  The procedure is pushed on these women, some of whom decide not to tell their husband what they are about to do.  Tubal ligation is presented by midwives and doctors as necessary, and the mother, who is often feeling tired and overwhelmed will agree.  A mother who refuses tubal ligation will be asked repeatedly if the medical professionals believe it is in her best interests.

New Zealand’s antenatal screening programme is one of “search and destroy”.   Maternal scans, screening blood tests and amniocentesis all serve the purpose of allowing midwives and doctors the opportunity to offer termination when the unborn child has an “abnormality”.

Newborn babies with Spina bifida have been left to die.

Family Planning, who have such a large influence on “sexual health” policy in New Zealand are affiliates of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).  Their founder, Margaret Sanger was well known for her eugenic thought.  Birth control was Sanger’s method of choice for “cleansing” society of the “unfit”.  Her ideology still drives the organisation today.

No, nothing should surprise us about Michael Laws’ comments.  His loud, disrespectful and offensive comments are only expressing the thoughts of so many who have brought the eugenics line.

May we never forget where that thought led millions of people less than a century ago.

UK Parliamentary inquiry calls for review of Abortion Act and end the discrimination against unborn disabled children

Mike Sullivan Saving Downs“The Government must review the Abortion Act and end the discrimination against unborn disabled children” says a major new UK Parliamentary Report.

The report, the work of a cross-party Commission, says that the current legislation is out-dated, allowing abortion for disabled babies up to birth, and is in urgent need of reform.

A number of recommendations, which are aimed at reforming the rules governing abortion on the grounds of disability, and ending the wide disparities in how the Act is applied across the UK are presented in the report.

The Commission chair, Conservative backbench MP Fiona Bruce, says: “it is time to review the moral, ethical, legal and practical framework within which this provision of the Abortion Act operates and how the law applies to a fetus beyond the age of viability.”

Bruce went on to say that “Parliament should consider at the very least the two main options for removing those elements which a majority of witnesses believe are discriminatory”.

The options are to reduce the upper time limit for abortion on disability grounds, and to make the upper limit the same as able bodied unborn babies, repealing Section 1(1)(d).

According to the Department of Health, in 2012 there were 2,692 abortions carried out under “Ground E of the Abortion Act 1967.” This was a 17% increase on the previous year; 160 of these abortions took place after 24 weeks.

Some treatable conditions such as cleft palate and club foot were being used to justify abortion on the grounds of disability which concerned the Commission.

Down syndrome also accounted for around one quarter (512) of all Ground E abortions and approximately nine in 10 (90%) of all unborn babies diagnosed with this condition were aborted.

Leading New Zealand disability rights campaigner Mike Sullivan of Saving Downs had called for a change in the UK law. He was delighted with the outcome of the report saying “Repealing that law would be the abolition of eugenic abortions against our people. Saving Downs advocates on this position and we are absolutely delighted to see such a strong and just recommendation emerge from this inquiry.”

Sullivan noted that a change in the UK’s discriminatory law “would be a defining moment for the Down syndrome community in the UK,” and that it was likely “to have downstream effects in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, as the screening and disability selective abortion programmes in those two countries mirror the UK ones.”

Mrs Bruce hoped that the Commission’s findings would “kick start and inform a much needed debate on this issue.”

Mike concluded that “time will tell how the recommendations develop into changes, but we can be sure that this is a momentous and historic stepping stone towards full social justice for our community.”

The unabridged Margaret Sanger

Margaret SangerBelow are some quotations by Margaret Sanger writing in the Birth Control Review, published over the period 1917-1940 by the American Birth Control League (ABCL), forerunner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). This organization, founded by Sanger, currently operates the largest chain of abortion clinics in the United States, and has performed more than five million abortions since 1970.

The quotes expose Sanger’s eugenic ideology.

Sanger was the founder of the International Planned Parenthood Federation to which New Zealand’s Family Planning Association is affiliated.  Cecile Richards, the current president of Planned Parenthood, will be visiting New Zealand in October, 2013 for Family Planning’s Conference.

Sanger on eugenics:
“Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral.  Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race…” 
~ (Morality and Birth Control, Birth Control Review, Volume II, Numbers 2 and 3, February-March 1918, page 14)

“Eugenics aims to secure better babies.”
~ (Medical Journalists Advocate Birth Control, Birth Control Review, Volume II, Number 10, October 1918, page 4)

“…we need not more of the fit, but fewer of the unfit… Is it not time to protect ourselves and our children and our children’s children? The propagation of the degenerate, the imbecile, the feeble-minded, should be prevented.” 
~ (Birth Control Past, Present and Future, Birth Control Review, Volume V, Number 8, August 1921, page 19)

“Today Eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems… As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit”, admittedly the greatest present menace to the human race… the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over fertility of the mentally and physically defective… Birth Control is not advanced as a panacea by which past and present evils of dysgenic breeding can be magically eliminated.  Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.”
~ (The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda, Birth Control Review, Volume V, Number 10, October 1921, page 5)

“Of course birth control itself is a eugenical measure.  Birth control is no negative philosophy concerned solely with the number of children brought into this world.  It is not merely a question of population.  Primarily it is the instrument of liberation and of human development.  Birth control for the individual, for the nation and for the world.  We are fighting for the children, the women and the men of the next generation.  We want a race of thoroughbreds.”
~ (Quotes from Margaret Sanger’s book Pivot of Civilization.  Birth Control Review, Volume VI, Number 10, October 1922, page 253)

Sanger on sterilization:
“There is only one reply to a request for a higher birth rate among the intelligent, and that is to ask the government to first take off the burdens of the insane and feebleminded from your backs.  Sterilization for these is the remedy.”
~ (The Function of Sterilization, Birth Control Review, Volume X, Number 10, October 1926, page 299)

“…give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.”
~ (The Function of Sterilization, Birth Control Review, Volume XVI, Number 4, April 1932, pages 107 and 108)

“The American public is taxed, heavily taxed, to maintain an increasing race of morons, which threatens the very foundations of our civilization.  It now remains for the United States government to set a sensible example to the world by offering a bonus… to all obviously unfit parents who allow themselves to be sterilized … In this way the moron and the diseased would have no posterity to inherit their unhappy condition.  The number of the feebleminded would decrease and a heavy burden would be lifted from the shoulders of the fit.  Such a bonus would be wise and profitable investment… It would be the salvation of American civilization.”
~ (The Function of Sterilization, Birth Control Review, Volume X, Number 10, October 1926, page 299)

“It is already evident that … the defective, delinquent and dependent classes are multiplying with reckless irresponsibility… Any intelligent analyst must admit that today there are too many of the wrong kind of people in our world, and too few of the right kind… The first great need of modern society is the encouragement of Birth Control education among potential parents of those poorer strata of society… It goes without saying that … parenthood should be forbidden to the insane, the feeble-minded, the epileptic and to all those suffering from transmissible diseases.  Modern methods of sterilization make this possible without the infliction of undue hardships or unhappiness..”
~ (The Need for Birth Control, Birth Control Review, Volume XII, Number 9, August 1928, page 228)

Eugenics Seminar Rich With Informative Speakers

Loving Every Child: Defying EugenicsOn August 4th,  about 80 people attended the seminar hosted by Family Life International in conjunction with Saving Downs “Loving Every Child:  Defying Eugenics”.  This seminar was hot on the heels of the announcement that the International Criminal Court will hold a preliminary enquiry into New Zealand’s antenatal screening programme for Down syndrome and other conditions.

The seminar featured guest speakers from Australia and New Zealand.  Monsignor Bernard Keily, St Patrick Catheral’s Administrator, opened the seminar by reading Psalm 139.  He shared about how his younger brother, Gerard touched the lives of  rough strangers by just loving them.

Alex Snedden, a 24 year old man who has Down syndrome, shared about his love of life, including a key highlight of attending the World Youth Day in Spain and meeting Pope Benedict XVI.  He also talked about living with flatmates he found on TradeMe, and his love of working for various people, including his Dad, Bishop Pat Dunn and the food bank.

Mrs Rita Joseph spoke on the topic:   “By What Right are we Human Beings?”  Her talk highlighted the uniqueness of each human being and their inherent dignity.  Rita passionately articulated the evil of eugenics and the killing of the unborn child in the womb through abortion, conveying the role of governments and groups who seek to make it a duty to abort children with any defects.  Rita also spoke on the history of eugenics and how people with Down syndrome and Spina Bifida were selected for euthanasia by the Nazis.  History is repeating itself as up to 9 out of 10 children identified as having these conditions are killed.   Mrs Joseph called this a crime against humanity.   The holocaust began with a small modification of medical ethics and with the acceptance that some lives are not worthy to be lived.  Programmes such as New Zealand’s antenatal screening programme, change people’s pattern of thinking towards the survivors of eugenics.  Parents of survivors are asked why they were not screened and aborted.  “It reduces the person to an object”  Mrs Joseph said.  While the Nazi establishment used the term ‘selection’ to justify their killing of the vulnerable, the New Zealand Ministry of Health uses the term ‘choice’.  “The right to choose is fast becoming the duty to choose.”  Mrs Josesph said.

Dr Deidre Little, a GP in rural NSW, has also provided intrapartum obstetric care for 27 years.  Dr Little discussed the topic “Prenatal Testing and How it Links with Eugenics.”   Her presentation began with a history of eugenics reflecting on the driving force behind the Nazi eugenic programme – the separation of biological power from a moral sense, and an abandonment of medical ethos.  In fact 44% of medical profession joined the Nazi party.  The next biggest group to join the Nazi party were lawyers which made up 24%.
In 2004 it became best practice for all obstetricians in New Zealand and Australia to implement screening of pregnant women for Down syndrome and other conditions.  Medical professions who do not offer the screening are seen to be not following best practice guidelines and could be sued for malpractice.

Dr Little explained in great detail the different screening results to be expected, the scientific methods behind them and the fact that the medical profession accept false positives (where mothers are told they have a high risk for a child with Down syndrome, when in fact the child doesn’t have Down syndrome) as being necessary.  The medical profession also accept high mortality rates after more invasive testing (such as amniocentesis – 1% and CVS – 3%), because the so-called benefit outweighs this cost.

Mike Sullivan, spokesman for Saving Downs, spoke on “Advocating for those with Down Syndrome in the Room and in the Womb”.  Mike explained the basis of the case before the International Criminal Court, pointing out that the New Zealand Government’s current cabinet paper envisages that 90% of those women screened for Down syndrome would abort their unborn child.  He articulated that many parents of people with Down Syndrome feel the current antenatal screening programme devalues their children.

Diane Belcher, founder of the Spina Bifida Association of New Zealand gave a very emotional and heart touching personal account of her ongoing struggles of having a child with Spina Bifida. She also shared how pregnant mothers were being screened for children with Spina Bifida as routine practice.  Diane expressed her deep pain knowing that children with Spina Bifida are deemed to have little worth by medical professionals and society as a whole.

Dr Catherine Hallagan, a GP from Wellington and Chair of the New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance spoke on  “Conscientious Objection for a Health Practitioner, its Legal Status in New Zealand and its Significance”.   Since the time of Hippocrates in the 3rd Century B.C medicine has core ethical values which mar it out as a moral activity.  The practice of medicine assumes a doctor will act in good conscience.  The Hippocratic Oath and ethics of medicine were refined on Judeo, Christian and Islamic teaching.  Conscientious Objection is the appeal to conscience to refuse to perform acts that threaten the person’s sense of moral integrity.  Doctors and nurses, as well as patients, may appeal to conscience in declining to perform a particular procedure or to undergo treatment.  An employer can not discriminate against an employee who appeals to one’s conscience.  This is clearly stated in three New Zealand acts of parliament: The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977,  The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

Colleen Bayer, National Director and founder of Family Life International NZ, launched the Therese Programme as a response to the needs of mothers and other family members whose unborn family member has had an adverse diagnosis.    “We care. We will advocate for you and offer you any practical and financial help needed on this journey”.  Colleen also spoke of two children whom Family Life International has been able to help through our Centre – Benedict, who was to be born with no brain and was expected to be born still, or at best gasping for breath (he is now a happy young boy attending school), and Elizabeth Therese (who the programme is named after), a six-year-old with Down syndrome, heart defects, ADHD, is profoundly deaf and also has a condition which will see her lose her sight at some point in her life.

Feedback from the Loving Every Child: Defying Eugenics Seminar has been very uplifting with people fascinated with the calibre of the speakers and what they were able to learn on these key issues effecting the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society.

DVDs can be obtained by downloading a form and ordering direct from Myriam Tape Ministries.

Blog written by Brendan Roberts and Michelle Kaufman.

Eugenics in New Zealand to be Discussed at Seminar

Life itself is a basic human right that is deserving of all humanity. But sadly in our country eugenics is denying that right to a group of individuals based on their genetic difference. Mr Mike Sullivan, spokesperson for Saving Downs says “The situation is so serious here that the International Criminal Court is now carrying out a preliminary examination into our genetic screening practices. These practices are discriminatory and eugenic in nature, as they prevent the births of children because of their biological differences.”

The term eugenics was coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883. Under Galton’s vision of eugenics, negative eugenics includes decreasing the occurrence of so-called ‘undesirable’ genes. Eugenics is one dynamic that influences the judgment of people’s abilities and the disabling consequences. In New Zealand genetic screening is decreasing the natural occurrence of people with conditions such as Down Syndrome and reinforcing discrimination against our community.

To raise awareness around this issue, and as part of an ongoing social justice campaign, Saving Downs and Family Life International NZ, are joining together to hold a one day seminar on Saturday 4 August in Ponsonby, Auckland. Loving Every Child: Defying Eugenics is being held to educate the public and discuss the ramifications of eugenics and what the International Criminal Court case means for the disabled. Topics include: a personal testimony of a young man with Down syndrome; by what right are they not human beings?; a history of eugenics; current practice and how it links with eugenics; advocating for Down syndrome in the room and in the womb; and a Spina Bifida perspective.

Mike Sullivan who laid the complaint with the International Criminal Court says, “This seminar is vital for informing the public of a eugenic program which is being thrust upon the vulnerable in our community and our response to secure social justice for them.”

Mrs Colleen Bayer, director of Family Life International NZ says “Genetic screening practices devalue the lives of people with disabilities and endangers them, as the history of the use of genetic selection shows”.

“We encourage media participation in facilitating public debate around this issue. Our seminar presents an excellent opportunity to learn more about the case under examination by the International Criminal Court, and the eugenic nature of genetic screening programmes.” Mr Sullivan says.

“Jadelle” an answer to Child Abuse?

Dame Lesley Max, a children’s advocate made a call on Friday for better promotion of contraception in order to tackle child abuse. This call has been backed up by a Families Commission Report which says “There may be scope for targeting family planning education to parents who have had previous children removed.”

The issue of child abuse in New Zealand is a very significant and worrying one.  Yes, something needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast in order to save the lives of so many innocent children. 

It has been suggested that “Jadelle” would be a great contraceptive device to encourage woman to be fitted with.  The Families Commission has also suggested that this would be a suitable contraception for teenage mothers in order to prevent a second pregnancy.

Jadelle is a two rod implant (a second generation Norplant device).   Inserted into the arm it functions by releasing a low-dose progestin levonorgestrel into the woman’s (girl’s) body over a five year period.  The effect of this hormone being released into the body is three-fold:

  1. It inhibits ovulation;
  2. It thickens cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to make it’s way to the ovum;
  3. It thickens the lining of the womb making implantation of the newly conceived baby difficult.

Rather than being a true contraceptive the Jadelle implant is an abortifacient, meaning that when the first two actions fail and a child is conceived the final action is for the womb to reject that child.  That is in itself an horrific child abuse.

It is concerning that a particular group is being targeted for the use of Jadelle or any other contraceptive or abortifacient device.  Margaret Sanger, the mother of the contraceptive movement was always keen to target those who were seen to be unfit parents.  Certainly people are making judgements about how fit those on welfare, or who are teens are to be parents.  These are the people being targeted at this time in New Zealand, and it seems that Jadelle is the preferred method of temporarily sterilizing them at this time.  (There have been calls from members of the public for actual sterilization of those on welfare).

This is akin to eugenics.  New Zealand must be very careful that we do not try to eradicate child abuse in this country by deciding who will be fertile or not.  When Norplant was first introduced to the American public (it is no longer available) a number of judges ordered woman to be fitted with the device because they had been convicted of abusing children.  (From Facts of Life by Brian Clowes – HLI). 

Women do not need contraception thrown at them with the idea that everything will then be all right.  The use of Jadelle will only put a sticking plaster over the problem, with new problems lurking underneath.

Those who work with families need to befriend those in need.  Everything in our world today has come down to policies and procedures which equals more paperwork and red tape.  People need people.  Human interaction and caring.  Families need practical support (whether they be large or small).  Mothers, fathers and children need people to whom they can talk to without fear of dire consequences (although those who are neglecting or hurting and killing their children must accept the consequencs of their actions – even if that means that their children are removed from their ‘care’ and they are jailed).  Families need true community.  Something that in the hustle and bustle of modern life we have forgotten.