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?

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Abortion and pre abortion visits

When the topic of liberalising abortion comes up, as it has recently, invariably there is talk about “increasing access” and reducing the number of visits required before a woman can have an abortion.

New Zealand law stipulates that the woman seeking an abortion must see two certifying consultants. Sometimes this can happen in one visit. Beyond this the law doesn’t specify anything about visits and appointments, but there is the need for a few more visits and procedures. The Abortion Supervisory Committee does have medical recommendations, but the extra visits and procedures are there more for medical reasons than legal.

Abortion providers generally want some basic tests done, and some information about when the woman became pregnant. This is important because different abortion procedures can only be used in some stages of pregnancy.

They want to know if there is an active sexually transmitted infection, as this can cause complications including chronic pelvic pain, infertility and increase risk of future ectopic pregnancy. One study of women presenting for an abortion found chlamydia at a rate of nearly 19% in one population group. Clearly it’s important to test and wait for the results before risking invasive surgery and all the risks of infection that can result.

One requirement that is very controversial overseas is ultrasound. There are some good reasons why it’s appropriate to do an ultrasound before an abortion. The first reason is to confirm that it’s a normal pregnancy, and not an ectopic or molar pregnancy. The recent case of “Dr N” highlights the risks or forgoing the ultrasound. She facilitated several of her patients to have medical abortions by providing the medication outside New Zealand’s current legal framework. One of these women had an ectopic pregnancy, which was not ended by the medical abortion. Later this patient was admitted to hospital for treatment due to a ruptured fallopian tube. Her outcome could have been much worse.

Ultrasound can confirm if the unborn child is healthy likely to survive to birth. There is an appreciable miscarriage rate in early pregnancy, and sometimes an ultrasound can predict a miscarriage before it happens. Clearly in these cases there is no need for the woman to be exposed to the additional trauma of an abortion. I’ve also heard that many women who have made up their mind to have an abortion, and then cry when they hear the news that their child has died, or will soon die.

An increasingly important feature of ultrasound is the ability to accurately estimate the age of the preborn baby. Many women are using forms of contraception that disrupt the normal menstrual cycle, which can make dating an unexpected pregnancy more difficult. The gestational age of the child is important information for abortion providers, as different methods of abortion are used as the gestational age of the child increases.

Blood tests are normally required. These indicate the health of the mother, and her rhesus blood group. If the mother is rhesus negative, and the baby is rhesus positive, after the abortion the mother may produce antibodies which could cause rhesus disease in her future babies. This can easily be prevented by an injection of ‘anti-D’ at the time of the abortion.

And then there is counselling. The Abortion Supervisory Committee strongly recommends counselling for all women wanting an abortion, both before and after abortion. This is universally optional, despite the growing evidence that abortion is harmful to a woman’s mental health.

It’s clear that the extra visits for a woman wanting an abortion in New Zealand are not because of some pro-life conspiracy, but are all justified on medical and evidence based grounds. They are certainly not hoops to be gotten through. They are there to protect the health of the woman and her future children.

But how much more could we protect women and children if we recognised the harm abortion does to them, and supported them in pregnancy and beyond? Then no unexpected pregnancy would be a crisis pregnancy, and every child could be born into a society which loves and affirms them.

Decriminalisation of what?

Image

Decriminalising’ abortion is in the media again.  It’s not the first time it’s been in the news and it certainly will not be the last time.  This time it looks like it’s going to be an election issue, or at least there is an effort to make it an election issue.  What is being proposed this time is very familiar, and could have come from the wish list of any New Zealand pro-abortion lobby group.

The main proposal is to remove abortion from the Crimes Act.  There is also a desire to reduce the time and complication required before a woman has an abortion.  And there is a desire to keep the status quo for abortions after 20 weeks, (although pre-born children with fetal abnormalities post 20 weeks are targeted).  None of this will happen if abortion is removed from the Crimes Act, unless other legislation is changed too.  Most of the regulations for the two Certifying Consultants are not in the Crimes Act, they are in the Contraception Sterilisation, and Abortion (CSA) act 1977.  So removing abortion from Crimes Act would not streamline the consulting process. And no one has mentioned changing CSA.  Furthermore, the distinction between abortions before 20 weeks and after 20 weeks is in the Crimes Act.  So if abortion was simply removed from the Crimes Act, the likely result would be virtually abortion on demand for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

All of this is supposedly to benefit women having abortions and to protect them from the law.  But the Crimes Act specifically protects women from prosecution. It only has legal sanctions against doctors and others involved in preforming abortions.

So this raises the question, is removing abortion from the Crimes Act an attempt to benefit women or is it really a way to move abortion out of the public health system, and create a US style abortion industry with legal protection for doctors to exploit vulnerable women? There are some hints in the usual rhetoric of the recent policy announcement. The issue of consistency of access to abortion across New Zealand and especially in provincial areas is constantly brought up by the pro-abortion movement. People who live far away from major hospitals have a lot of issues accessing timely healthcare and paying for accommodation and travel. It’s big issue in maternity care but somehow abortion promoters forget to talk about that ‘women’s health’ issue.

Removing the oversight of the abortion referral process, and allowing more abortions to take place outside of a hospital setting is going to allow a US or Australian style for profit abortion industry to thrive in New Zealand. I don’t know if our politicians are aware of this, but I know the abortion promoters are. After all, Family Planning did bring in the US$523 616 paid CEO of the United States largest abortion provider to teach them how to bring a ‘reproductive rights’ movement into New Zealand.

And speaking of Cecile Richards, the line about ‘trusting women’ comes straight from her.  Richards’ ‘trust’ of vulnerable women has seen her organisation increase the numbers of abortions it performs during her leadership, as the total number of abortions in the US is declining.

I’ve never met a women at this Centre that I won’t trust. Abortion isn’t, and never has been about trust. Most of these women feel that they don’t have a choice. To say that they ‘trust’ women in crisis circumstances, but then to only offer abortion as a way out, is exploiting women.

It is pleasing to see there is talk of offering more assistance to pregnant women. But government agencies don’t have a great record of catering to the needs of people in crisis. From my own experience they are better at causing stress than they are in relieving it. I’m pleased to work for an organisation that provides practical help for people without them having to have a degree in paperwork. But helping isn’t always wanted by our politicians if they have political issues with us.

So removing abortion from the Crimes Act would seem to benefit doctors and business plans more than women. And removing certifying requirements would allow some of the worst excesses of the Australian and US abortion industry to happen here.

If we are going to change our laws on abortion, shouldn’t we change them to protect women and children, rather than to allow them to be exploited and killed?

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>

A Pro-life view of ‘Tolerance’

“Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Something about ‘tolerance’ has always made me uncomfortable. I’ve long been aware that the loudest preachers of tolerance are the ones who are the most intolerant of my own beliefs. I’m well aware of that, and the contradiction of it, but somehow it never really was the reason.

And those who preach tolerance are full of conviction. It’s their followers who they expect to abandon their convictions, or conform to what is politically correct. We all know plenty of them. I’ve also been aware of this for a long time, but it was never the whole source of what was bothering me about ‘tolerance’.

There was always something else that I could never put my finger on.

Then I was blessed enough to hear Fr Jim Brand from Vatican radio talking about ‘tolerance’, and my eyes were opened. “What might we tolerate?” he asked, “A fly buzzing around…”

Essentially he was reminding us all that when we only ‘tolerate’ something bad or irritating. When we declare our tolerance of a person, it’s actually a put down. And that’s a problem for a Christian. The worth of each and every person comes from them being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether it’s a ‘reproductive rights’ protestor, an expectant mum at a pregnancy centre, or her preborn child. Another human being is never a ‘thing’ to be ‘tolerated’, but a chance for us to practice our Christian vocation of love.

So tolerance is far below the standard required of a Christian. If an expectant Mum came into our centre, and I merely tolerated her because of her beliefs about abortion, then I have failed her, myself and our Lord.

Her, because she will pick up the difference between a ‘tolerant’ attitude and a true Christian attitude of unconditional love. It’s the reason that faith based crisis pregnancy centres have been so effective. I’ve failed myself because I’ve failed to live up to my Christian vocation, and it doing so, I’ve failed our Lord too.

But there is the call to be intolerant. Yes, Christians are called to be intolerant. Our Lord himself showed a great deal of intolerance towards the practice of ‘money changing’ in the temple.

While we are not to be intolerant of people, there is plenty we are called to be intolerant too: Abortion, contraception, poverty, human trafficking, violence and anything that robs people of their God given dignity.

It’s our mission and vocation to bring the Gospel of Life, a world where everyone experiences God given grace and dignity, from conception to natural death. And it’s our job to be intolerant to a culture of death that robs people of their God given dignity, and then so often, their lives too.

And in this, may we never be that man without a conviction!

“All men are equal as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Under fire… Again

target on back

Monday morning, first day back from the holidays and after some prayers, I’m sitting at my desk checking the voicemail. I had a message from a lovely lady who had organised a group of women to knit baby clothes for us. I returned to call to assure her that the box of baby gear had arrived and that we are very thankful for it. She let me know that since she left the voicemail, the ‘thank you’ card from us had arrived. I looked back at the clothes still in the box, and remembered a lead I needed to follow up for some shelving at a price a charity could afford. I knew the little shelf we had was only a stopgap measure, but I didn’t think it would be full to overflowing with clothes donations before I even started asking for them. Pro-life people are so generous.

And then the email arrives. Someone has spotted a blog entry about us. And we are in the pro-abortion gun sights again. Specifically the John Paul II centre for life in Dunedin.

This blog is alleging that we are using bullying, judgemental, scare and deception tactics against the pregnant women who choose to come to us. These charges are completely false. I can say that with authority, because I’m the coordinator of the centre, so I know what happens here. And what chance have we had to do that? We have only just opened!

So what’s all this about? Well, it started last November when a prominent pro-abortion activist and a couple of her supporters visited the centre. They wanted the literature that we give to pregnant women. As I was trying to explain that our 0800 number was still being answered by the centres further north, one of her supporters headed for a table of brochures in our large meeting room, and starts helping herself to them. Why would she do that?

As soon as you have climbed the stairs and come into the centre, you can clearly see our small meeting room. It’s small, comfortable and perfect for two people to have a chat and a cup of coffee. It even has a few brochures. There aren’t many there, the room is mostly for us to listen, and only then see if we can sort out some help. And most of the brochures there are probably available elsewhere in Dunedin. We really don’t use a lot of printed matter for pregnant women.

But this supporter ignored that room and headed straight for our meeting room. Did she really think that we are seeing 20 or 30 pregnant women at a time? We seated about 30 in there for the official opening, with the rest of the crowd standing, in the room, or out in the foyer.

Between that and me trying to telling them that the pregnancy centre side of the centre wasn’t yet fully running, you would think that she would figure out that the brochures she was taking weren’t for pregnant mums. They were for the pro-life people who had been at the official opening of the centre a week before.

The brochures that the support helped herself to must have been given to this blogger, as she spends a lot of time going through them and pointing out how bad they are for pregnant women. And I agree that they aren’t suitable for pregnant women. That’s why we don’t offer them to them. And that’s why we keep them away from rooms where we meet with pregnant women.

The first brochure that the blogger criticises was an old black and white (with a few red headings) one from the US. It was US in its context and very North American in its tone. Pro-lifers can usually figure these things out, and as for the tone of it, I can generally count on their tolerance. This is a brochure that I would never offer to a pregnant women. The details were probably all correct for the time and place of it’s publication. Since then, worse abuses have become public knowledge in the US. The brochure is old and American, it probably isn’t going to be in the centre much longer. If anyone wants a copy, I’m happy for them to come and take one to study. It’s relevant because US abortion providers are trying to bring their agenda to New Zealand. Some of the text (with modifications and omissions) is online here. The blogger cites accurately from it, which is much better that she does for the next brochure she attacks.

This was the “Teen abortion risks fact sheet”. Again, we don’t use it for pregnant women, only for general pro-life education. There is an online version which is an expanded and updated version of our print copies. The blogger starts off citing it accurately, reporting “6x more likely to attempt suicide”. Next she says, “She’ll develop psychological problems and likely end up in a mental hospital”. The brochure actually says “Teens who abort are more likely to develop psychological problems, and are nearly three times more likely to be admitted to mental health hospitals than teens in general”

This exaggerating and misrepresenting would be easier to accept if her link to the online version actually worked. Then the reader could actually see something similar to the brochure that she was satirising.

And the mental health issue has been investigated in New Zealand by a pro-abortion researcher, so I don’t think we are being dishonest about it. The bloggers treatment of the rest of the brochure follows the same tactics.

When she is finished with that she launches into an attack of the centre and our work with statements like, “They should not exist”.

The problem is she hasn’t actually attacked us at all. She has created a caricature of us, probably some pro-life version of Family Planning from a parallel universe. And that is the object of her attack. Her version doesn’t resemble us at all. We are not a professional counselling service, but if a pregnant women needs that, we do have access to professionally qualified counsellors. ‘Peer counselling’ is a better description of what we do, and that’s mostly listening. If we wanted to hide the fact that we are pro-life, why would we called ourselves the John Paul II centre for life? If our pregnant and worried website was about deception, why does it have our logo on it with a link to our main site?

She does admit that she would allow us to exist if we “just distribute factual information, plus provide practical assistance”.

I’ve spent more time on this than it deserves. Those baby clothes behind me still needs a shelf to live on, and I have an appointment to see someone about that. And then there are the prams and car seats that need some storage solutions too. And there is a social worker who runs a birth support group for families of limited means who wants to meet me so we can arrange referrals. If this blogger really does know all about supporting pregnant women, maybe she should contact me directly. I’m always happy to learn.