Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Save us from David Warren’s “Scientism”

Once again David Warren doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Describing current debates on ‘in vitro fertilization’", he writes: “progressive supporters of ‘IVF’ are piling up studies… elaborate, refereed papers showing that, if you start from the premises (sic) that IVF is OK, and that one kind of family is as good as another, you will find that IVF is OK, and that one kind of family is as good as another.”

While identifying no IVF studies of this type, Warren proclaims that they are “a farce…The difficulties associated with an ‘abnormal’ upbringing appear as (children) grow older; including… those surveyed in the report, My Daddy's Name is Donor (by Marquardt, Glenn, and Clark)… Example: At age 18 and up, about two-thirds of the children conceived from anonymously donated sperm agree with the comment, ‘My sperm donor is half of who I am’."

Warren has apparently confused IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, with AID, or Artificial Insemination by Donor. AID, not IVF, is the issue du jour, and the subject of “My Daddy’s name is Donor”; as Warren himself clearly puts it, “children conceived from anonymously donated sperm”, and as the authors state, “young-adult donor offspring” are the subject of the "report", the “30,000-60,000 children born in this country via artificial insemination”.

Let me lay out the differences between the two in the simplest terms. Artificial Insemination (AI) or Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID) refer to any normal (that is "in vivo", not “in vitro”) fertilization resulting from insemination by (usually anonymous) donor sperm. With Artificial Insemination, conception occurs within the woman's body. The reasons for using donor sperm vary from common social ones (lesbian couples or single women who want children), to medical ones (a woman’s male partner is infertile), and the methods vary equally widely from the common do-it-yourself-at-home-with-a-turkey-baster-and-male-friend's-fresh-sample, to more refined medical practices, which don’t necessitate the very costly, specialized, laboratory/surgical procedures that constitute IVF.

Most significantly, as its name indicates, IVF means that fertilization occurs outside the woman’s body (in vitro), and in order for that to happen the woman’s eggs must first be harvested and removed. This removal, and having conception occur in a Petri dish, is more complicated than getting sperm into a vagina through the use of a turkey baster, or any other medical means.

IVF is the treatment of choice for women with blocked, mal-formed, or absent fallopian tubes (in jurisdictions where the procedure is covered by medicare, this is usually the medical profile of the women who receive coverage). IVF normally uses the woman’s husband/partner’s sperm. While there might be the odd instance of donor egg or donor sperm combined with IVF in some private clinics, the vast majority of IVF children grow up quite happily with both their biological father and mother. The medical detour required to get dad’s sperm and mom’s egg into (the same mom’s) uterus is often a follow-up to ectopic pregnancy, where a blockage causes the embryo to grow outside the womb, threatening both mom and baby and requiring emergency surgery. IVF is a necessary medical procedure to get a couple’s egg and sperm into the right location, not a feminist/leftist/ lifestyle choice to do away with dad. And as the biological father is normally present, IVF does not cause what Warren describes as “abnormal upbringing”.

Warren tells readers that there are “piles” of “farcical” IVF studies addressing the “children of sperm donors”. In this too, he appears to be mistaken. There are few, if any, psycho-social studies of IVF kids, and I can’t find even one addressing them in terms of anonymous donor sperm. It’s unlikely that there exist any studies (“farcical” “piles” or otherwise) of IVF/donor sperm child outcomes, as the two study groups are simply not the same. But having identified so many of these "IVF" studies as “farcical”, perhaps Warren can produce and name them. The Ottawa Citizen is, after all, a newspaper, and we’d hate to think that Warren can just make things up.

And speaking of “farcical” studies, the donor daddy “report” Warren trumpets is effectively dealt with here and here.

For a guy who like to play at Latin, Warren might benefit from looking up what “in vitro” means; his own “scientism” seems to indicate he can’t tell a Petri dish from a turkey baster. And while providing no evidence of the “fatuousness” he regularly derides in others, Warren himself provides the most trenchant example – serving up what he considers the unsurpassed brilliance of his own old high school observations without even the most cursory effort to get his terms and facts straight.