A fascinating article from the Times Online that gives some context to our blog entry of yesterday:
WHEN Jilly, a successful recruitment consultant, was pressed by her husband to start a family, she gritted her teeth and agreed. In her thirties, she was keen to press ahead with her career but started attending an IVF clinic at the behest of her spouse, 10 years her senior. Last year, after two rounds of fertility treatment, Jilly became pregnant. But the prospect of motherhood filled her with dread and she decided to have an abortion without telling her husband. “I know it sounds terrible, but I didn’t think the pregnancy would happen and, when it did, I knew I didn’t want it,” she said. “It would have destroyed our relationship. I just let him think the IVF hadn’t worked.”
Jilly, who does not want to be identified, is one of a growing number of young women who have chosen to abort foetuses for “social” reasons after fertility treatment. Figures obtained under freedom of information rules show that an average of 80 abortions are carried out each year after IVF, which can cost about £5,000. Up to half of these involve women aged 18-34. The statistics, compiled by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), also indicate that some of the pregnancies are a result of conceptions funded by the National Health Service.
This weekend the figures surprised experts, who pointed out that most IVF clinics lose contact with a patient after she becomes pregnant because she is then cared for by routine antenatal services. “These women can’t be surprised to be pregnant; you can’t have an IVF pregnancy by accident,” said Professor Bill Ledger, a member of the HFEA and head of reproductive and developmental medicine at Sheffield University. Mohamed Taranissi, Britain’s most successful fertility doctor, called for an inquiry. “It is a matter that needs to be looked at. The HFEA should be much more open with the data they have,” he said.
Victoria, a secretary from London, decided to abort her much-wanted IVF baby when it became clear her marriage was breaking up. “I couldn’t cope with bringing up a child on my own and I didn’t want any link that would force me to stay in touch with my husband,” she said. Jessica Rogers, a nursing supervisor at the Marie Stopes clinic in Bristol, said she recently dealt with a woman expecting twins through IVF who had discovered her husband was having an affair. Rogers said: “She was having his babies and she just didn’t want to continue with it on her own. I don’t think he even found out she had been pregnant.”
Ann Furedi, head of BPAS, formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, believes every abortion doctor sees at least one patient a year requesting a termination after IVF treatment. “For infertile people, overcoming the problem becomes a goal in itself,” she said. “Sometimes it is only when women get pregnant that they can allow themselves to ask the question about whether it is really what they want.” Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister, said women who terminated pregnancies for non-medical reasons were treating their babies like “designer goods”. She said: “If the law was being applied properly, people wouldn’t be able to get an abortion just because they changed their minds.”
The HFEA said it did not regulate abortions. “All patients who undergo IVF are assessed, as are the implications for any child that might be born, in advance of the decision to treat,” it added.
Unlike many others, I am not shocked by these statistics, though I do find them bothersome and worthy of further research. As I pointed out yesterday, with respect to unwanted children in the surrogacy context:
Parenthetically, I should point out that these types of custody disputes are very rare. With more than 38,000 surrogate deliveries in the United States since 1979, there have only been 32 reported instances of surrogates attempting to keep custody of the child (the majority of those involving traditional surrogacy). In fact, the greatest risk in a surrogate arrangement is not that the surrogate will repudiate the agreement and attempt to keep custody, but rather that the Intended Parent(s) will abandon their child(ren) and the surrogate during pregnancy. Over the same 31 year period of time, 74 Intended Parents have sought to walk away from their pregnant surrogate! Quite an astonishing statistic and one that strains credulity. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to work on more than 8,000 reproductive arrangements. In none of these cases has a surrogate or donor sought to change their mind. Never have any of my Intended Parents had to commence an action against their surrogate or donor or ever were sued by them. However, I have had four clients seek to walk away from their pregnant surrogate.
As I posted in the comments in response to a question as to why Intended Parents would abandon their pregnant surrogate, the reasons are varied. One couple decided they were uncomfortable with twins who were not 100% genetically related to both parents and a child they already had. Another couple separated. A third decided they were not ready for childhood. Yet another believed their baby’s health condition was too grave for them to handle.
So while I understand the surprise and even the condemnation, I think many are passing judgment too quickly and, perhaps, using this report to advance an anti-choice agenda. For the reporting to be fair, statistics need to be presented that show how many couples not receiving infertility treatment abort for social reasons after making a conscious decision to have a child. We also need to know the percentage of IVF patients that abort (80 out of how many each year?) and compare it to the population of couples who abort who actively were seeking to become pregnant. Just because a couple underwent IVF or pursued surrogacy, does not mean they are immune to the vagaries of life or are more committed to having a child then their fertile counterpart. As it stands now, this report from the Times lacks the necessary context to put this issue in proper perspective or draw any meaningful conclusions.
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