In Vitro Fertilization

Years ago, I met Doctor Bob Tamis, a physician who perform

ed abortions up to 22 weeks in Phoenix, Arizona.  Interestingly, he also had an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) facility in the same building for couples who were having trouble conceiving a baby.  Indeed, as far as I knew, he was the only doctor in the country who performed both seemingly contradictory services.

Like many clinics in those days, his was the subject of some very intense anti-abortion protest activity.  On Saturday mornings, as he entered the clinic, it was not unusual for Doctor Tamis to be greeted by 50-100 screaming, placard waiving, anti-abortion protestors who commonly referred to him as “Doctor Death.”  But, for years, I often wondered what that scene might have been like for Bruce and Sue, a young couple that was seeing Doctor Tamis to conceive a baby, not abort one…

(Cue the going back in time sequence music)

The protestor, a 71 year old former Marine who has been at the clinic every Saturday for years, watches intently as the young couple parks their car and approaches the clinic.  Much like his response years ago when he caught a glimpse of the Viet Cong through his sniper scope, he senses red meat and can’t wait for his ambush.  Suddenly, he screams at the top of his lungs:  “Don’t Kill Your Baby!  For the love of God, don’t kill your baby!  In a few months, you could give birth to a beautiful little girl.  Don’t you want to watch her grow up?  Don’t you want to be grandparents one day?”

Instead of ignoring him, Bruce releases the hand of his wife and rushes towards the Marine.

“You’re an idiot!  We are not here for an abortion, you old fool.  Not that it is any of your business but we’re coming here for our in vitro fertilization treatments!  We’re trying to have a baby!”

The old man looks at him quizzically and asks “You’re fertilizing what vito?”

Bruce can only laugh at the ignorance.  Then, another protestor comes over.

“It doesn’t matter, young man.  What you are doing is still against God’s law!”

“Wait a second.  I thought you folks wanted everyone to have babies, that you wanted us to populate the Earth ten times over?”

“You are a sinner,” screams the protestor.  “You both will burn in hell!”

“Huh???”  Bruce is trying to figure out what he is missing here.

“Well, young fella, let me read you something from our Church pamphlet.  It says her that ‘techniques involving only the married couple, like homologous artificial insemination and fertilization, dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.’”

Bruce has to hold back the laughter.  “Well, that sure clarifies things!  But, wait.  You’re out here all the time, screaming at women because you want them to keep their babies, right?  But my wife and I cannot conceive a child, we want to have a baby and we’re here to start that process.  Ain’t that good enough for you?”

“Well, no.  It’s God’s law.  The Gospel says that spouses who still suffer from infertility should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.”

Bruce’s head is ready to implode.  He can’t believe he is even part of this surreal conversation.

“And another thing,” says the protestor, “did you know that many of the embryos dies in the transfer process, are stored in freezers or are killed and washed down the sink?”

“Yep, the doctor told us that could happen.  And your point is what?”

“Well, you’re killing babies!”

“But, but, don’t you get it?  We’re trying to make a baby!  Doesn’t that make you happy?”

“Well, no, because you two aren’t doing it the right way…..”

And around and around it goes.

Does the Catholic Church want to tell us how to take a crap also?