Yesterday, as Nathan’s viral photo approached 40,000 shares, I came across two similar news stories in the UK’s Daily Mail and Telegraph. The two stories were about the high rate of termination of babies conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) who were diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome.
My first thought was, “Well, that’s no surprise.” My second thought was a knee-jerk instinct to judge the parents who chose to terminate their babies. I immediately assumed they were shallow people who weren’t willing to accept an imperfect child.
But then I remembered all of my friends who’ve undergone IVF, and something didn’t feel right about what I was thinking.
Here in the United States, IVF is expensive – in most cases, between $10,000-15,000 per treatment cycle – and most states don’t mandate insurance coverage of IVF (in the UK, IVF typically costs between £4000 and £8000). There are no guarantees with IVF, either – pregnancy is achieved in less than 1/3 of treatments (29.4% per the most recent CDC report in 2009), and live births less than 1/4 of the time (22.4%). As a result, many couples undergo multiple rounds of IVF in order to have just one child, bringing the cost even higher.
I’ve known couples who took out bank loans, borrowed money from their parents, and/or sold their belongings for IVF treatments – with no guarantee of a baby. I will be honest and say that I don’t quite understand that line of thinking. Mr. Andi and I struggled for a time with infertility, but we determined from the outset that IVF was not an option for us – our thinking was that so many children in the world need loving parents that we’d rather put our money into adoption than IVF. But not everyone I know feels that way, and a baby is a baby no matter how it is conceived.
Why do couples go to so much trouble and expense, knowing that their odds of having a baby are less than one in four? I have to assume it’s because they REALLY REALLY want a baby (and that’s been the case for the couples I’ve known who’ve utilized IVF). After going through all of the stress and expense of IVF and finally – FINALLY! – conceiving, does it make sense that these couples would then choose to abort the baby because he or she was diagnosed with Down syndrome?
Yet it does happen, as the two UK stories make clear. Why?
When people start down the IVF road, it’s pretty unlikely that they hope and dream of having a child with a disability. But I refuse to believe that all of the people in those stories who chose to abort did so because their desire for a perfect child was so great that they wouldn’t accept a slightly different outcome.
I was discussing IVF treatment with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago – she and her husband had undergone IVF (unsuccessfully) and were hoping to adopt. Because I’m not a fan of IVF, I tried to understand why she didn’t consider adoption first. Her response was something to the effect that as they were navigating the path of infertility treatments, IVF seemed like just the next step in the process, because the doctor always assumed they wanted to keep going.
If my friend had conceived a baby who was then diagnosed with Down syndrome, would the doctor have assumed she was willing to abort, as well?
People who are pro-choice insist that women should be able to decide if they want to have a baby and when, and because of that assertion, they believe abortion should remain legal (I disagree, but my beliefs aren’t relevant to my point here). What’s different about abortion of IVF babies with chromosomal abnormalities is that these babies ARE wanted – desperately. So why are their mothers aborting them?
It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Tell me what you think. Are these moms shallow and superficial? Have they been led astray by bad information from their doctors? Or is something else at play here?
Help me to understand.