- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 8, 2009

The whole country is talking about the appalling case of the California unwed mother who had herself impregnated by in vitro fertilization (IVF) and delivered octuplets. This tragic case cries out for reflection and action.

We thank God that the children were born alive and that the mother did not take lethal advice, if it was offered, for what is deceptively called “pregnancy reduction.” This involves selective abortion of some children in multiple pregnancies.

Even as we welcome children in life, they should have more protections in law before they are conceived. First of all, these children have been deprived of a father’s love, support and guidance. They have been gravely wronged. Wronged, too, are the six previous children this troubled young woman has borne. It is hard to imagine a more disadvantaged circumstance than 14 fatherless children being raised in a single household. These children have rights, too.

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When I served in the Louisiana legislature, I sponsored and we passed laws to regulate the unsanitary and dangerous conditions that prevailed in too many abortion centers. The law has obviously failed in the area of fertility clinics. IVF centers in the United States are less regulated than veterinary clinics are. Many IVF profiteers are motivated by gain and blinded to ethics, despite the extraordinary power they exercise. They bring human lives into being. They freeze embryonic humans indefinitely for later implantation, but they also kill embryonic humans. In a real sense, they are human traffickers.

One thing should be clear from the “Octo-Mom” case: She has done nothing illegal. The United States is the Wild West when it comes to public policy regarding IVF. The clinics set up and abide by their own scant rules, and occasionally modify them when the courts intervene, as they inevitably will, in disputed cases. The California single mom in this case had eight children at once because at least that many were implanted. In Germany and Italy, for example, the law says that an IVF clinic can implant no more than three embryos at a time. As a result, these countries are not experiencing any octo-dilemmas or other issues, like what to do with “leftover embryos.”

Consider, as well, the financial cost of this tragedy. The medical bills are expected to approach $2 million. The mother is unemployed (other than in seeking and capitalizing on publicity). A number of her older children have disabilities. Some of the octuplets may suffer similar disabilities.

Americans have a right not to be taxed to support such appalling irresponsibility. Clearly, the mother herself cannot cover the cost. If not she, then who? For now, a surge of money from the tabloid media may help her, but in time (and with more cases) the camera lights will fade. If the IVF provider acted recklessly in this instance, should it not have had a fund or insurance to cover the costs of caring for these children before there is resort to welfare? How about the “donors” — better to call them “spermers,” since nearly all of them are paid for their disservice? Should there not be some mechanism to tap their resources for the human lives they have spawned rather than turn to the taxpayers who had no say in the matter?

Why, after all, should we pursue young men who have impregnated their girlfriends through illicit but natural intercourse while letting privileged med students or celebrities off the hook? David Crosby of the ‘70s rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young boasts of having fathered Melissa Etheridge’s children. Those children may never need Crosby’s financial support — but they would be right to demand it and taxpayers would be right to insist he provide it before their own liability kicks in.

Consider another problem. My home state of Louisiana lives under the Napoleonic Code. One feature of this law is that inheritance is equally divided among all natural children. If state legislatures apply this principle in these cases, we could recognize the right of children conceived by IVF to claim their equal share of inheritance from their biological fathers.

These common-sense reforms would cut into IVF centers’ profit margins, to be sure.

But the public interest demands remedial action. Justice to children cries out for exhaustive public debate and reform of a business that is intrinsically more fraught with potential issues than almost any other.

This case should also lead us to examine carefully the limited ways in which we protect the rights of children. The Obama administration has signaled its interest in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). That convention would have the force of law, like any treaty ratified by the Senate. The CROC fails to recognize the child’s right to be born and the child’s right to the married love and support of his or her mother and father. Babies, as we know too well, are too often cavalierly conceived, but they should never be both deliberately and cavalierly conceived.

Finally, let’s use this tragic Octo-Mom incident to rethink the whole misbegotten project of IVF centers. Now, most are little more than baby mills. Let’s reform our laws to hold fathers accountable for the children they conceive. Let’s deter single mothers from this kind of baby-shopping. Let’s search our hearts and go through our state legislatures as the first line of defense for fundamental human rights.

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

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