Playing God Without the Wisdom of God

The dominant secular culture portrays the world of In vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogate pregnancies as a great advance for mankind, even as it generates a stream of horror stories beyond the imagination of Greek tragedians.

Not a week passes, it seems, without a new disturbing permutation to this culture. “Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby,” reported CNN this week.

So now surrogates are offered money not just to carry children but to abort them. A more complete headline on CNN’s story would have been: “Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby diagnosed as disabled.” Untroubled by eugenic abortion, CNN doesn’t even bother to engage that obvious element in the story.

Was the surrogate mother (who didn’t end up getting the abortion) a “Savior or Satan”? asks CNN fatuously: “In one view, she’s a saint who fought at great personal sacrifice for an unborn child whose own parents did not want her to live. In another view, she recklessly absconded with someone else’s child and brought into the world a baby who faces serious medical challenges when that wasn’t her decision to make.”

Before telling this tangled tale, CNN, showing its pro-IVF bias, says most “surrogacies have happy endings.” This claim ignores that the first stage of the process involves, among other injustices, freezing or discarding “excess” embryos, which is not a happy ending for them.

Yet even after that injustice, the doctors and agencies described in this CNN story couldn’t give the couple that arranged the surrogacy the child they wanted. Consequently, the couple demanded that the surrogate mother abort the disabled child. The surrogate mother at first bargained with them, asking for $15,000 instead of $10,000 to abort the child.

But then the surrogate mother had second thoughts: “No one else was feeling this pregnancy the way that I was. No one else could feel her kicking and moving around inside me. I knew from the beginning that this little girl had an amazing fighting spirit, and whatever challenges were thrown at her, she would go at them with every ounce of spirit that she could possibly have.”

“I can’t tell you how many people told me that I was bad, that I was wrong, that I should go have an abortion, that I would be damned to hell,” she said.

Such is the entitled view of the eugenic abortionists. Yet CNN thinks the ethical question here is not the proposed abortion but the decision-making that went into it: Who had the right to make that decision? Did the couple that arranged the surrogacy have the right to that decision? Or was that a decision for the surrogate mother?

The law on this issue varies from state to state. “Over the years, states have developed different laws about surrogacy. Some, like Connecticut, say the genetic parents—the ones who supplied the sperm and the egg—are the baby’s legal parents. Other states don’t recognize surrogacy contracts, and so the baby legally belongs to the woman who’s carrying the baby,” according to CNN.

To make the story even more confusing, the “genetic parents” in this case had used an “anonymous egg donor.” So their claim as the biological parents of the child—all so that they could have the child aborted—grew even more shaky.

Undaunted by that problem, they unleashed their lawyer on the surrogate mother. “You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately. You have squandered precious time,” he wrote to her.

One more layer of confusion in the story is that the surrogate mother put the child up for adoption. So now at least five people can claim to be her parent.

The spirit of domination and hubris underlying IVF culture comes out in stories like these. It is no wonder that the children of IVF grow more and more resentful.

In 2006, Katrina Clark wrote bitterly about her experience as a child of IVF in the pages of the Washington Post: “We didn’t ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It’s hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won’t matter to the ‘products’ of the cryobanks’ service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.”

Playing God without the wisdom of God, which is what transferring reproduction from marriage to the lab inevitably means, produces these insoluble ethical messes, shattering the “equality that must be common to parents and children,” as the Church teaches.

IVF infringes “the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The world scoffs at this teaching, but CNN’s story offers one more confirmation of it, depicting the child as nothing more than an object over which conflicting “parents,” lawyers, and “genetic counselors” can fight.

George Neumayr


George Neumayr is a contributing editor to The American Spectator, and a weekly columnist for Crisis Magazine. He is also co-author (with Phyllis Schlafly) of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

  • Ford Oxaal

    What a tangled web we weave. So kids come last, the horse’s derriere first. My children made up a little poem when they were quite little themselves that sums it up nicely: “the sky is green, the grass is blue, everything’s opposite, what do we do?”

  • hombre111

    Excellent summary of the bitter irony of the whole thing.

  • cloonfush

    Warnings of “a slippery slope…” have turned into cliche. This sad story is proof that we need to heed some of these warnings. Humane Vitae. God’s bodies that our souls dwell in are indeed not machines.

  • givelifeachance2

    How prescient was Mary Shelley in penning Frankenstein’s monster into existence. She saw acutely the soulcrushing agony that faced the misbegotten. That she had an unshakeable gaze on the evisceration number the French Revolution had already done on marriage and the family is due to her own history and family. The Victorian reticence which kept the sexual deviancy sparked by de Sade under wraps for a century nevertheless worked its way into a eugenics groundswell in the meantime. Now, with both eugenicists and sex libertines out of the closet, the government can corner the market on the means of reproduction.

  • Great article showing inconsistency and insanity. It might be a good idea to include the word “prostitute” in any article about surrogate mothers. That is basically what they are; they are selling their body like a time-share. So not wanting to get an abortion might be like a hooker who doesn’t want to perform certain acts with a violent customer. I feel bad for surrogate mothers–and prostitutes–because what they endure goes with the territory of what they are doing.

    • JoePip

      JMJ Pauli, forgot to mention the word Masturbator.

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  • John200

    “Playing God without the wisdom of God, …produces these insoluble ethical messes,…” This is insoluble if we are restricted to secular ethical systems. Not so if you turn on the light. Try:
    1. RCIA – I am guessing very few of these players are practicing Catholics.
    2. Next, to the Catechism where a concise, well written section tells us what we need to know. If you will not, then off to Humanae Vitae and/or Theology of the Body. It’s all there in black and white. You can’t misread the truth.
    3. To the confessional, where the spiritual effects of this conduct can be reversed. The practical effects persist for a little while, but marks on the soul are eternal. Therefore, they are more important.

    There is a teaching job to be done. The evidence is in this kind of “insoluble ethical mess.”

  • Bob

    We are not products, we are “begotten not made.” A person manufactured by anonymous sperm banks, egg donations, IVF and surrogacy starts life with one foot in a bucket. “who’s my real father? Who’s my real mother? What about the eight other embryos, my brothers and sisters, that were killed off before implantation?” Frankenstein, very much indeed…….

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Secular Europeans are frequently shocked by the laxity of American laws on assisted reproduction.

    Compare, for example, the French Civil Code, an aggressively secular body of law, if ever there was one:-

    “The human body is inviolable. The human body, its elements and its products may not form the subject of a patrimonial right” (Art 16-1)

    “Agreements that have the effect of bestowing a patrimonial value to the human body, its elements or products are void” (Art 16-5)

    “No remuneration may be granted to a person who consents to an experimentation on himself, to the taking of elements of his body or to the collection of products thereof.” (Art 16-6)

    “All agreements relating to procreation or gestation on account of a third party are void.” (Art 16-7)

    Then, there is the catch-all provision of Article 1128, “Only things in commerce can be the subject of an agreement.” Thus, human gametes or embryos cannot be owned, or form the subject-matter of a contract.

  • It is ironic that the liberals in the media who pretend to elevate a woman’s right to control of her body as inviolable, at the same time will deny that right in order to treat an unborn child and the surrogate’s womb as property. They would treat this mother as a slave of the ‘genetic parents’ who have the right to tell this woman what she should do with her own body and treat this unborn child as mere property leased by contract. I guess the 13th amendment doesn’t apply to this form of commerce.

    • Kunta Kinte

      Well, per Roe v. Wade, the unborn ARE property. Modern day slave trade. It’s only going to get worse from here on.

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  • Robert A Rowland

    this is a much needed discussion concerning this latest travesty being foisted on the soulless modern world. I was impressed by your joint book with Phyllis Schlafly as well.

  • Both my children are IVF. This technique has resulted in more than 200K babies in 30 years, just in the USA, that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. This should be a pro-life cause, since it creates life.

    Sometimes surrogates are used, with either the father’s or mother’s or both genetic material, depending on the reason the surrogate was needed. Surrogacy has a religious basis – the father of the Abrahamic tradition, the venerable Abraham himself, used Hagar to bear children on behalf of Sarah, who either couldn’t conceive or couldn’t carry to term.

    • And were multiple embryos created? Are they now frozen in stasis or were they destroyed? Lastly, are you Catholic?

      • If I had not chosen IVF, exactly zero embryos would have been formed. Through IVF, there are now two live children. In the course of any woman’s life, more than a few embryos are fertilized, then flushed either before or after implantation, and those never become children. Some couples can only have children through IVF. Why isn’t this a pro-life issue?

        • Facile1

          Mike Pekarek wrote:

          “Some couples can only have children through IVF. Why isn’t this a pro-life issue?”

          All sin is idolatry. LOVE GOD FIRST.

          It is only when one truly loves GOD FIRST can one put one’s love for anything else in its proper place — whether it is the love for one’s family or the church (paganism), the love for one’s spouse or the weak (humanism), or the love for one’s children or one’s self (narcissism).

          The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is that IVF is immoral. There are options for adoption. God has many children who need the material support as well as the spiritual support only good parents can offer.

          You have to explain to yourself how your insistence on having only children with your and/or your spouse’s genetic material reflects YOUR LOVE for your family and is NOT merely an act of narcissism.

          Regardless, GOD does not love you or your spouse or your children any less for having chosen IVF (even though it is clear your LOVE for GOD hardly matters in your life choices).

          Rejoice in God’s LOVE always and go in PEACE.

          • bobbielama

            Be fruitful and multiply…

          • Assuming our intellect is given to us by god, and we have used our intellect to unlock one secret of nature to allow children to be born where none were before, why would that god ask us to not use the intellect he gave us to bring more children into this world?

            The idea that childless couples should only adopt is a weird adaptation of the only option that existed prior to IVF, and another example of assuming you know the mind of god. Couples that want children primarily want their own – we are hard-wired this way, and it is folly to say that this is wrong. If anything in the natural world was not hard-wired to produce their own offspring, the species would fail. Now adoption is still an option, but so is IVF because we had the courage to use the brains we were given. There was a young brother and sister I met while in Kyrgystan that I would have adopted then and there, except the price tag of $42K per child to adopt. IVF only cost us about $6K per child, though we ended up being a simple case.

            Your argument about selfishness of wanting children is cold, heartless, and will ultimately lose the debate through the folly of ignoring compassion for your fellow man. In the Western world it already has lost, because in addition to the above aspects the argument also unwilling to accept the wonders our brains have unlocked to help us in the future.

            • Facile1

              Dear Mr. Pekarek:

              As a Catholic, I am under an obligation to tell you what the teaching of the Catholic Church is with regard to IVF (especially HERE in an explicitly CATHOLIC blog site where the featured writer is exploring the subject of IVF).

              This explicitly CATHOLIC blog site, however, is NOT the proper venue in which to explore the reasons behind a PERSONAL choice, not to mention that I am NOT personally interested in your personal reasons and I am also NOT a priest and therefore, cannot act as your confessor.

              If one doesn’t like a Catholic Church teaching, one is FREE to leave. God may not have given all of us brains; but God gave all of us FREE WILL.

              Regardless of whether you are Catholic or not, God has not stopped loving YOU, your spouse or your children. God will love you always for ALL eternity, even if you should freely choose to remain separated from God for ALL eternity.

              Catholic Church teachings only reflect on OUR love for God, which is subject to our ‘free will’. Catholic Church teachings do NOT reflect on God’s love for us, because that does not change. So your question: ” … why would that god ask us to not use the intellect he gave us to bring more children into this world?” is not even INTELLIGIBLE in this context. God only asks us to do one thing. LOVE GOD FIRST.

              In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”

              All sin is idolatry and therefore, a proper subject of study for the Catholic Church. However, our sins are NOT news to GOD. The fact alone that we’re here arguing over ‘sin’ is evidence of God’s abiding LOVE for both of us.

              So, REJOICE in GOD’s LOVE ALWAYS and go in PEACE. Rejoicing in God’s love does NOT require that we LOVE GOD FIRST.

              Feel free to reply, but do not expect the courtesy of a response. I’m done. There is nothing more that needs saying.

            • @ Mike,
              We may discover all we can; what the Church teaches is that God wants us to avoid using those discoveries where they may be perverted to bad ends, as in those mentioned in the article. Rather than a blanket claim to “know the mind of God”, as you charge, this is an eminently reasonable and humane teaching, one that amounts to an injunction to do no harm, and one that any reasonable person, believer or non-believer, might be expected to support. Indeed, if there is any claim being made to know the mind of God, it seems to be coming from those who engage in this practice, since we have not acquired, and probably never will acquire, the wisdom, not to mention the superhuman intelligence required, to foretell and avoid such horrors as those on display in the article: to use this technology is the height of arrogance and irresponsibility – i.e., playing God. To answer your specific question: Would God have given us the intelligence to accomplish IVF if He wanted us not to use it to create human life? The answer is yes, because intelligence is given for us to use in so far as it leads us to God. Of course, many examples can be given where man has used his powers of invention to make things – guns, cars, atom bombs – that can cause harm. Man always sins, and his creative powers frequently outrun his ability to avoid using their fruits sinfully – they are always confronting him with new opportunities to sin. But he does not always use his creative powers in the service of sin, and he does not have to. The atom bomb did not have to be used on human beings. The technology of IVF does not have to be used; the cross of barrenness may be borne in other ways than usurping the role of Creator.

      • About being Catholic, Catholics are trying to make this the law for everyone, Catholic or not. Whether you or I are personally Catholic or not is beside the point as long as the Church tries to legislate and coerce their versions of morality.

        • Mike,

          See Socalangel, above, for the correct way to look at this. This is not the Catholic Church trying to coerce anyone; our hierarchy long ago gave up the stick, feeding us a steady diet of carrots since Vatican ll. This is the militant secularists attempting (and so far succeeding) to expand their dominance. Not content to control the media, the courts, most of politics and the economy, they now relentlessly hunt down our very cells. The chilling words of the lawyer for the couple who hired the surrogate: “You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately.” reveal in the starkest possible way the totalitarianism at the heart of the feminist project and the evil within the rhetoric of “reproductive rights”.

          • So, back to Hagar, Paul considers her a bondswoman, not free to choose or not to bear children to Abraham. The first surrogate. In her case she was a slave. In the modern sense, the surrogate enters into a contract and, like any legal contract, it has conditions and stipulations about who makes decisions about what and when. Paul considers this perfectly normal.

            • Leaving aside the question of the morality of Abraham’s act, your justification then, in so far as it extends past “I want it, therefore it is good”, is based upon the fact that the women involved today are no longer slaves. In other words, changing the relationship between the woman and those who use her from one based on a pre-existing relationship to one based on commercial considerations (6k per child vs. 42k) makes it OK.

              • There are two things here.

                First, surrogacy. I’m trying to figure out why it is condemned. Surrogacy is all over the bible, from Hagar to the big one, Mary. Some were slaves and forced, and that was considered OK, though Abraham and Sarah’s treatment of Hagar is deplorable from a modern standpoint. Some were asked, like Mary. Where is it condemned, outside of far more modern religious sources, generally infertile (by choice) men? There are many layers of bizarre and non sequitur wrapped up in the Church teaching here, which is why they are lost the argument outside of places like this magazine. New life is precious and we should help it along except when we shouldn’t?

                The second is the notion that infertile couples’ only option is adoption through some grim and cold idea that it is “god’s will”. We used the talents given to us to come up with another option, IVF either with or without a surrogate. Yes, many “infertile” women can bear their own children with initial intervention by a laboratory, no surrogate needed. The argument for adoption made positive sense before IVF, but now just sounds cold-hearted. The primal desire to reproduce, again given to us, is either ignored or called selfish, which simply ignores human nature. No wonder the Church lost this one.

                • Gilbert

                  To practice IVF does not help new life along, it creates it; since these are two entirely different things, the Church’s teaching makes perfect sense, while your attempt to conflate them is disingenuous at best. There would be no need for your kindheartedness towards a petri dish if you went to an orphanage and bestowed it instead on an already living child instead of going to a laboratory. Who could call giving hope and a home to a living bundle of joy “coldhearted”, while a date with forceps and dry ice is touted as a reflection of all that is noble in human nature? Now THAT is bizarre.

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