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The Libertarian Case Against IVF and Paid Surrogacy

The burden of infertility weighs heavily on many hearts. According to survey data, about 9 percent of men and 11 percent of women in the reproductive age range have experienced infertility problems.

Couples dealing with infertility issues have turned to alternatives like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and paid surrogacy to make their dream of parenthood a reality. While openness to parenthood is a virtue, it should be pursued with a respect for life.

Unfortunately, options like IVF and paid surrogacy violate principles libertarians hold dear, such as the sanctity of life and self-ownership.

To understand why, it’s important to acknowledge that embryos used in IVF procedures represent a distinct human life. The only difference between an adult living today and a human embryo is their individual stage of development. While both differ in age, they are both persons. It’s this insight that makes IVF problematic, as it results in countless numbers of abandoned or discarded human embryos.

In other words, millions of human beings never get to experience life because they were deemed disposable in the process of, ironically, creating a new human life. This should cause problems for the libertarian, as the decision to destroy a human being in its early stage of development is an act of aggression.

While there’s an internal debate among libertarians about what constitutes aggression, the destruction of innocent human life is clear cut and cannot be sanctioned by any libertarian theory grounded in self-ownership and property rights.

But what if IVF didn’t result in ending a human life? Would it be morally right? I argue no because the embryo itself is not the property of any person. It is a unique human being with its own rights. While the burden of infertility is great, this does not imply a “right” to a child. Children—no matter where they are in their stage of development—are not the property of anyone, including their parents.

Consequently, procedures like IVF or paid surrogacy, while they involve self-owners (parents), they require the involuntary use of another self-owner (the human embryo). Given the importance of consent in a libertarian legal framework, the involuntary use of an embryo make IVF and surrogacy impermissible.

This doesn’t mean people struggling with infertility have no other moral options except to hope for a miracle. Treating infertility has come a long way over the last several decades with the introduction of NaProTECHNOLOGY—a woman’s health science that seeks to address underlying infertility issues with natural methods, along with medical and surgical treatments that cooperate with a woman’s body.

NaPro has the benefit of treating infertility without violating the sanctity of human life—and it’s more effective than IVF, according the the AMA Journal of Ethics, which found “…although achieving a live birth with NPT may take longer, it has a greater chance of occurring than with IVF.”

NaPro has also shown to be more effective in increasing pregnancies for women with certain health issues (ex. anovulation, endometriosis) than those women who use IVF.

Even with recent advancements, the use of NaPro isn’t widespread, despite its moral and practical advantages over IVF. Libertarians who care about the sanctity of life, reducing aggression in society and helping couples struggling with infertility should rethink IVF and surrogacy and embrace NaPro.

If the liberty movement is seriously committed to principles like non-violence and self-ownership, we need to be avid defenders of life at all stages of development. Because without life, there is no liberty.

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