reproductive technology

reproductive technology

Politics Posing as Medical Science

abortion, abstinence, contraception, mothers, news, reproductive technology, women's health No comments

By Pat Fagan, Ph.D., Director of MARRI

NBC News and many others have lauded the results of the Peipert program evaluation of the effects of LARCs (long term reversible contraceptives), namely IUDs and implant contraceptives, which they claim have (unsurprising) effects in lowering abortions.  However, there is much to dispute about the study.   Its method is almost non-existent though a lot of words are used to describe it.  This means their results may be a massive underestimation of the effects or even a massive overestimation of the effects.  We just don’t know;  the “method” is totally unreliable.  It is analogous to going into a library to find out the level of reading in the local population, or to giving a book to those you find at a library to figure out the effect of reading on such people!  In this case they go to a group of women desirous of reversible control methods.  To make matters worse: they have no comparison control group. They do not line up treatment and control (absolutely fundamental to this type of study), but they insinuate comparisons. The project team went through all sorts of contortions to estimate the effects, but they avoided the obvious simple, fundamental step of having a control group.  This is political correctness trumping good scholarship (a dangerous trend in the social sciences that will eventually come back to haunt academia).
Though I am opposed to their way of thinking and acting (more anon), I would have expected LARCs to have had much better results than they did.  There is still way too high a rate of abortion from a method one would expect to virtually totally eliminate it. This much-lauded method does not come close.     
 
Other big concerns I have about this approach to avoiding abortions is the effect of this form of behavior on the long-term marital, family, parenting, and sexual habits of the women involved.  My prediction is that young women who use these methods (who would not feel sexually liberated with totally effective birth control methods) will have many more sexual partners, behavior that itself increases the likelihood of procuring an abortion.  The program will also have high STD effects, likely have very significant effects on future marital stability, and in turn have significantly weakening effects on these women’s future children’s life outcomes.  That STD rate effects would be tracked and measured is something one would expect to be second nature for OBGYNs to report upon.  Maybe there is a second study coming (but that would be useless too, given no control group.)
So: failing grades on method and on narrowness of their view of effectiveness.  And failing grades also are given to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for rushing shoddy work to press in order to influence the Presidential campaigns.  That is really sad.  It definitely is not good science, nor good politics either, though we would expect medical science to stay above the political fray.  All in all, it is a sad day for medicine and science. 

For an in-depth analysis of the study, see Dr. Michael New’spiece.

Concentration Can

children, injustice, pro-life, reproductive technology No comments

Amanda Brennan, Intern
 
For many couples today, having children has become an ART, or an act of Artificial Reproductive Technology. This method, which contributes to more than 1 percent of all infant births, involves the combining of egg and sperm outside the body through various procedures. In most cases a woman’s eggs are retrieved surgically after superovulation, and a man’s sperm is collected via masturbation or a medical procedure. The two are then combined in a petri dish to form new life. From this moment on, the fate of the embryos is unclear. The couple has several options: implant into the biological mother, implant into a surrogate, donate to another couple, dispose of, donate to research, or freeze.
Cryopreservation, or the freezing of excess embryos, is a common practice at virtually all of the 443 identified fertility clinics throughout the United States. Presently, it is believed that over 400,000 human lives are suspended in “concentration cans” of liquid nitrogen. In all the hype of solving infertility and creating genetically enhanced children, life is being destroyed (an estimated 6½ embryos are lost for every live birth in IVF) and embryos are being imprisoned in a “man-made limbo.” The evils of concentration camps went unnoticed until after the damage was done in WWII, and the same may be true for the injustice of cryopreservationthat is occurring throughout the world today. The question of what to do with embryos that are abandoned or unwanted has gone unanswered in the U.S., but in some European countries those unclaimed embryos are often cleaned out and destroyed to make room for newer ones coming in. Little thought has been given to the consequences of ART methods on future society as a whole, most importantly on the family.
Through procedures such as IVF the fundamental norm of creation is manipulated. No longer do people beget children, instead they manufacture them, casting the sexual act between a man and a woman aside. The separation between procreative and recreational sex continues. As ART procedures grow in popularity more and more children will be detached from their biological parents. Originally, only homologous artificial fertilization was practiced, but now heterologous artificial fertilization is acceptable. This opens the door for single parenthood, homosexual parenthood, etc., in the meantime gradually devaluing the institution of marriage. For instance, a child could be created from the egg and sperm of two strangers, gestated by another woman, and then raised by two completely different people. Up to five individuals can contribute to the creation and upbringing of a child, not to mention the third-party intervention of scientists and medical professionals throughout the process. As MARRI research points out, children thrive when they grow up in an intact married family. In 2009, 45.8 percent of children experienced family intactness. Some ART procedures provide a child with a stable home between a married man and woman, but many others provide the opportunity to redefine marriage and childbearing unlike ever before. 
As science continues to progress, we must not forget the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” (Horton Hears a Who). Humans must evaluate the repercussions of their actions before creating injustices such as frozen embryos. There are ways to treat infertility that respect the dignity of the human person, that value life at even its smallest stages, and that safeguard marriage and the sexual act. It must not be forgotten that children have a fundamental, inalienable right to be born and raised in an intact family, not stored in a refrigerator.

A Selfish Dream

family, human capital, reproductive technology, sexuality No comments
By MaryAnn McCabe, Intern
At modamily.comthey advertise that they “bring your dream to life.” They state that “[t]he desire to become a parent is why single men and women use Modamily, but there is nothing preventing the development of a relationship. Our primary goal is to create a community for great potential parents that removes the stress and pressures associated with feeling that in order to be a parent one must find a spouse first.” Facilitating this sort of relationship could permanently skew the modern American’s perception of what family is.
 
“Modamily” and its ilk only have a market have their services, in large part, because young women have been convinced to give up on motherhood. Many have sacrificed a wedding, a husband, and children – and are left to resort to online co-parenting shopping.
 
Modamily allows you to choose your preferred method of conception (natural or artificial). Hypothetically, you could have intercourse with someone whom you meet on Modamily and believe would make a great co-parent. You might repeatedly “try” and fail to conceive. A man who has had a vasectomy (or STDs!) could potentially use the site for the sole purpose of finding ready sexual partners. This is a legitimate possibility, but the site does not protect against it. Modamily states that it “DOES NOT CONDUCT BACKGROUND CHECKS OR OTHERWISE SCREEN USERS OF THE WEBSITE IN ANY WAY.” The possibilities are both endless and terrifying.
 
Women’s peak fertility window is short (ages 22 to 26). Work, however, isn’t going anywhere. It is okay to press the “pause” button on work. Furthermore, while many women think raising children is a waste of time, a stay-at-home mother’s work contributes a lot to society. James J. Heckman, who is considered to be among the ten most influential economists in the world, wrote a paper titled Formulating, Identifying and estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation.  It identifies the scale of factors by estimating their effects on adult outcomes. Parental inputs have different effects at different stages of a child’s life. When a person leaves college to enter the workforce, there is a significant difference between someone whose parents invested a lot of time in them versus someone whose parents did not. There is a roughly thirty percent increase on earnings for young men and women graduating college whose parents invested their time in them. The median personal income is roughly $32,000.Thirty percent of $32,000 is $9,600. That figure is staggering! It means that if parents take their time and invest it in their child, he/she comes out of the college running with an average of $9,600 more annually then his/her peers! Stay-at-home mothers are at a particular advantage when it comes to investing time in their children.
 
In the end, Modamily’s purpose is to facilitate a selfish dream. They are selling a solution to childlessness that is ultimately harmful to all concerned.  As women we need to take personal responsibility for our fertility and decide whether it’s truly worth it to put off having children in order to pursue quick success at work.
 
For more on the importance of intact family life, visit www.marri.us.