07 February 2009

Scientific Excess?

I already had a negative first reaction to the news about the woman who gave birth to octuplets in California before I heard that she also had six other young children at home. I think I heard a celebrity caught by one of those cheesy stalkerazzi shows say something about not wanting a litter for herself and, as little stock I put into the opinions of celebrities, I had to agree.

This week's news in Canada was the sixty year-old woman in Calgary who gave birth to twins after undergoing in vitro fertilization in India. The raging debate is about whether she ought to have been refused the procedure because of her age.

I'm not even going to get into the issues about how many to implant or whether there should be an upper age limit for the prospective mother. I think there are societies out there in the world that have come up with reasonable sets of rules to avoid the grotesque scenes of excess. I want to sound off on the issue of assisted procreation in its basic form.

I don't know if it's because I have never wanted children (as much as I thoroughly enjoy my nieces and nephews and the children of friends), but I just don't understand the massive use of resources to produce babies in a world that is overpopulated and getting worse. It has to be something about me that leaves me unable to understand the compulsion — or the obsession — to give birth to one's own child at any cost.

I am more concerned now that my province has decided that this should be a service covered by medicare.

I can understand situations where there is something mechanical or otherwise health-related that would prevent conception in the usual way. Like when one of the partners is HIV positive (don't want to infect your partner), or when both are lesbians (don't have all the necessary building blocks). I guess this betrays my own biases. But are these the kinds of situations in which these services are available? No. In both of these situations, people are being refused access to these services for precisely the reasons that they would be appropriate. And my tax money is paying for this kind of discrimination?

Okay, my tax money doesn't actually even cover the cost of my meds that is borne by the government, at least until the end of the month, when I go onto a group insurance plan. But I can still be righteously indignant, can't I?

Yes, when there are unwanted or orphaned children who could make a positive contribution to our society if only we welcomed them. Yes, when there are a number of other things that are more pressing that are not covered by our health care system.

But we do it because we can. The miracle science of producing litters of children for those who already have more than twice the number most have, or are twice the age of most people who are about to start raising children.

Someone should have called in the ethics committee a lot sooner.