A Money Back Guarantee

You can get one on that stove you bought at Best Buy and all the stuff they sell on infomercials--now you can even get one on a baby.

Well, not exactly.

The Washington Post reports today on a growing trend at fertility clinics--money-back guarantees. "A Baby, or Cash Back" the headline reads.

It's all part of the booming assisted reproductive technology (ART)industry. The New York Times ran a piece last week on the growth in ART in recent years--and included the mind-boggling story of a woman who spent $300,000 trying to get pregnant. (The piece is already in the paid archives)

According to the Centers for Disease Control, which monitors ART, there were 107,000 ART cycles (or attempts) in 2001 and more than 40,000 babies born as a result, up from 64,000 attempts and just over 20,000 babies born. At about 10,000 per attempt, this is big business.

It's also starting to worry people. Worried about the costs--human and financial, and about the 400,000 frozen embryos leftover in storage--a group of United Methodist theologians proposed something radical at the General Assembly a few weeks back.

They asked members of their church to stop using ART.

Here's their rationale.

  • ART tempts people "to view children as products to be obtained"

  • procreation becomes a mechanistic process instead of an act of love

  • the pursuit of "children of our own" tempts us "to limit the scope of our concern to our biological offspring and ignore the pressing needs of other children at home and around the world."

  • the practices of IVF--mainly the freezing and disposal of lower quality embryos undermines the value of developing human life

It was a pretty radical proposal, and one that was gutted by the General Assembly. You can read the amended version here. The original language is there as well--just crossed out.

This all happened below the surface at the General Assembly, buried underneath the stories about gays in the church and a proposed split. But it may be just as big a story in the long run.

One quick other thing--Heidi Schlumpf of US Catholic magazine did a cover story for Sojourners this month on pro-life progressives--people who oppose abortion and the war in Iraq and the death penalty as well She argues that this group feels left out--seeing both Democrats and Republicans as bad choices.

Here's a couple of snippets:

    "The Democrats have really sold out. They have no credibility on the pro-life issue," says Ebener of Davenport, who like many regrets that the party that pledges to protect the little guy doesn’t include the littlest of all—the unborn.

  • To hear the pro-choice lobby talk, it would seem the only choice in an unplanned pregnancy is abortion. Pro-life feminists and other pro-life progressives, on the other hand, would like to offer women real choices—economic ones like paid parenting leave or cultural ones like less shame and guilt for pregnant teens.

  • Republicans who claim to be pro-life also often have anti-life policies that are completely in collusion with the social and economic structures that compel abortion," says Kevin Clarke, editor of Salt of the Earth, a Catholic social justice e-zine.


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