My thoughts on IVF are simple. I believe that every woman who craves to, and who has the capabilities, should enjoy the gift of motherhood. I am, thus, grateful for science and technology that has made it possible for many seemingly infertile women to bear their own children. I believe that it is God’s way of correcting the mistakes of nature and ensuring that all His children are happy. And in my mind, I thought everyone shared my views. So imagine my shock when I spent a weekend at my parents house and was reading the edition of Genevieve Magazine that had TY Bello in her pregnancy glow on the cover. My Dad comes into my room and asks me what I am reading on. I sit up in my bed, excitedly narrating to him TY’s ten year infertility battle, and sharing her testimony as well. He was happy for her, and proceeded to give God thanks on her behalf, until I opened my big mouth and said “And it was through IVF oh. Technology has really helped women”.
My father’s well wishes stopped right there, and the things that came out from his mouth floored me. He was like “Human beings just like taking laws into their own hands. Is she God? Why didn’t she wait on God’s appointed time? Now, are you trying to tell me that those children are from God when they were fertilized in a test-tube:. “Hmmm, Dad, every life comes from God na”, was my feeble response. No oh! Instead, he insisted that IVF babies were not from God but from laboratories, and I was appalled. This coming from my father, a Senior Oil & Gas Executive, and a Fellow with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, a graduate of the University of Lagos? I couldn’t even defend myself and my beliefs, I just kept thinking “So people still think like this”. He added that IVF babies would not be like ‘normal’ babies, and when I was saying that they are very normal and natural and the first IVF baby in Africa, Olushina Eghosa, is twenty six years old and doing well for himself, he just hissed and left my room.
I decided to do a bit of research and see if there are those who like my dad have stigma towards IVF and I was surprised. Many educated and enlightened people, especially the religious ones, have deep issues with IVF. My father, like so many others, base their beliefs and sentiments on what their religion allows, and some faiths actually do not support assisted reproduction. The Roman Catholic Church has long rejected any reproductive technologies that manipulate human embryos. The Catholic Church only condones procedures that “assist” conception that would happen naturally. This means that the egg and the sperm must meet on their own and this union must occur within the biological mother’s natural reproductive system. Practices like masturbation for sperm collection, egg donation (which I have been a part of) and surrogacy are vehemently condemned by the church. Islam is more tolerant of assisted reproduction, as religious jurists reached an Ijtihad (decision based on Islamic Law) on IVF and determined that the practice is permissible, provided that the semen and ovum are from a couple who are legally married and that the fertilization takes place during their marriage, but not after divorce or the death of the husband.
These brings to the fore, a discourse that we probably should be having. There a lot of women who have their babies thanks to IVF or IUI, but cannot complete their testimony, for fear of being stigmatized. They cannot tell their friend who is also suffering fro infertility the drugs they used and the hospitals they went to, because they are scared of their babies being termed as ‘abnormal’ or ‘test tube’ babies and I think it is unfair. As with every change in society, stigma follows and has to be actively fought. The LGBT community in the USA for example, have gone past being stigmatized to having gay marriages legalized in all states in the country. Now, it is a crime to speak openly against LGBT, and any pastor that refuses to marry a gay couple can have his/her license withdrawn. In a short space of time, the LGBT community has gone from being hunted, to being the hunters.
Nearer home, it wasn’t too long ago that we were battling with stigmatizing of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) but, thank God, those days are behind us. A problem can only be tackled if it is recognized. IVF is looked at from the medical standpoint majorly and I think it is time we recognize the socio-cultural aspects of it, which are many! I thank God for a forum such as this, and I can only hope that we reach more and more people, and create an avenue for us to unashamedly talk about assisted reproduction while the religious clerics keep judging (just as the pharisees and sadducees). Every child is a gift from God and that miracle should not be undermined. If not for God, who else breathes life into babies, and forms human beings out of embryos? If not for God, how would we have successfully gone through pregnancy and childbirth? Hmmm….if not for God, “human beings for crucify us finish!
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