Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

Baby as product

Family | A new IVF method promises ‘miraculous’ results for lesbian women but leaves the child out of the equation
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 11/09/18, 03:09 pm

Two doctors in Texas who used a new method of in vitro fertilization with a lesbian couple are claiming it allowed both women to carry the baby at different points during its gestation. But a closer look reveals a risky process with consumeristic roots.

Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter announced last week that they were the first same-sex couple to use the method, called reciprocal effortless IVF, to artificially conceive and deliver a baby, now a 5-month-old boy named Stetson.

For the last few years, lesbian couples have used reciprocal IVF, in which an egg from one woman is fertilized with sperm from a donor, incubated for a few days at a fertility clinic, and then implanted in the other woman’s uterus.

Dallas-area fertility doctors Kathy and Kevin Doody have expanded the idea using a Food and Drug Administration–approved device called the INVOcell, which allows a woman’s body to act as the incubator. They’ve used the method to help heterosexual couples conceive for about half of the cost of traditional IVF, but this was the first time they used it with two women. Doctors harvested Bliss Coulter’s eggs, then inserted the INVOcell with her eggs and donor sperm into her birth canal for fertilization and early embryonic development. Five days later, they removed the device with three new embryos inside, froze two embryos, and implanted one in Ashleigh Coulter’s uterus.

While the new technology allows two women to play a part in IVF, only one woman is the baby’s genetic mother, and only one woman is pregnant. A forgotten father, the anonymous sperm donor, is also involved.

The Doodys—who run the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Bedford, Texas—said they’ve used the INVOcell with about 200 couples, according to CBS News, but hope to use it with more lesbians.

“This is just another example where technology is serving the best interest of adults—the buyers, the purchasers,” Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a former nurse, told me. Lahl is also the filmmaker responsible for the new documentary #BigFertility. “Nothing in this story seems in the best interest of the child,” she said.

Lahl said the method is a new example of human experimentation on a child who has absolutely no ability to consent—and all of that on top of the fact that IVF is already a risky procedure that overwhelmingly fails.

When asked how she would respond to the argument that these doctors were simply trying to help, Lahl said the story is evidence of how medicine has become a service industry. Instead of agreeing to help this couple create embryos, Lahl argued, the clinic should have said, “There is nothing wrong with your fertile bodies. There is no medical need here to risk this child’s health, and I’m not going to participate in it because that’s not what proper medicine does.”

In an interview with ABC News, a reporter noted the Coulters still have two frozen embryos, which they could use unless they want to do the process again with Ashleigh Coulter’s eggs.

“It’s total consumerism,” Lahl said in response. “‘I want to be the mother now. It’s my turn to be the mother now.’ It’s totally treating the child as a product and we are the consumers buying and selling and picking the ones we want and discarding the two that will probably be left in the freezer.”

Associated Press/Photo by Steve Apps/	Wisconsin State Journal Associated Press/Photo by Steve Apps/ Wisconsin State Journal U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., after her Tuesday win

LGBT caucus

LGBT candidates and the LGBT agenda gained ground in this week’s midterm elections. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., handily won the election to become the first openly gay governor in the United States. Dozens of candidates became “firsts” in statewide and local elections. Prominent “agains” included the reelection of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, the country’s first lesbian governor, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the country’s first lesbian senator. But not all attempted firsts won their bid. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is waiting for a final vote count to see if she will become the first openly bisexual U.S. senator, and Christine Hallquist was about 15 percentage points shy of being the first openly transgender U.S. governor.

Voters in Massachusetts also upheld a statewide law requiring businesses to grant access to single-sex private facilities based on gender identity.

“Despite a valiant effort, the Keep MA Safe/No on 3 campaign simply could not overcome being outspent more than 10 to 1, an openly hostile media, and the political headwinds of 2018,” wrote Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. But an estimated 900,000 Massachusetts voters said “no” to the transgender law, a base Beckwith said his organization plans to build on. —K.C.

YouTube/Child Protection League Action YouTube/Child Protection League Action Anmarie Calgaro

A parent’s nightmare

A three-judge appeals court panel in Minnesota heard arguments last month in the case of a Minnesota mother suing state, school, and health officials for terminating her parental rights without due process and then guiding her son toward a sex change.

In 2015, Anmarie Calgaro’s then-16-year-old son, who was living with his father at the time, obtained a letter of emancipation with the help of a legal aid attorney. He was granted Medicaid benefits and prescribed hormone therapy drugs and narcotics. Once she found out, officials denied Calgaro access to school and medical records. A judge last May acknowledged the termination was unlawful but said Calgaro’s rights were not violated by the county officials and healthcare providers who shepherded her son toward sex-change treatments.

On Oct. 16, Calgaro’s attorney argued before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the state law regarding nonjudicial administrative emancipation is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Calgaro was a “fit parent” under state definitions, yet was never informed that her parental rights were under consideration, something the state is required to do for unfit parents. “Why wouldn’t we provide the same procedural due process for fit parents?” asked Erick Kaardal, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, who has called the situation “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Lawyers representing the accused healthcare provider and the county both defended their clients’ actions and said they could not be liable for a mistaken emancipation.

A decision is expected within a few months. —K.C.

Porn filter, please

More than 80 male Notre Dame undergraduates and graduate students recently implored the university to block pornography on the campus Wi-Fi network.

“This filter would send the unequivocal message that pornography is an affront to human rights and catastrophic to individuals and relationships,” wrote Notre Dame senior James Martinson in a letter to the editor published in the university’s daily campus newspaper. “We are calling for this action in order to stand up for the dignity of all people, especially women.”

The letter cited a 2013 survey that found 63 percent of male Notre Dame students view pornography on the university’s network. If the rates follow national trends, the percent is likely higher today. —K.C.

Screen warning

Lots of screen time for kids leads to less curiosity, less self-control, and less emotional stability, according to a new study by San Diego State University psychologist Jean M. Twenge. Twenge has been on a roll the last couple of years doing highly cited research on children, teens, social media, and mental health.

This most recent study found more than an hour of screen time a day was associated with lower psychological well-being in children ages 2 to 17. She also found teens using screens seven or more hours a day were twice as likely to have an anxiety or depression diagnosis, compared to teens using screens an hour or less a day. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.

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