IVF / ART

ARTART – Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) are infertility treatments for women who are having trouble getting pregnant. They are methods used to achieve a pregnancy either through artificial or partially artificial means.

IVF: A Specific Area of RTL NSW Interest
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is one ART method. It’s where eggs from a woman are mixed with a man’s sperm outside of her body. Usually, multiple embryos are created, with one or two of them returned to her uterus to try to achieve a pregnancy.

RTL NSW STANCE
The problem with IVF is that it relies on numbers for success – namely, a number of embryos.  When only 1 or 2 are implanted in a woman’s uterus, many more are left behind unused. These embryos are often discarded, destroyed, frozen and forgotten, or given over to medical research. These are voiceless victims of IVF and they are the reason why we oppose IVF.

QUICK FACTS

Quick Facts to Support Our Position

  • In Australia alone, it’s estimated there are than more than 120,000 human embryos in storage. [1]
  • Alarming statistics out of Great Britain highlight our position. Between 1991-2012, an estimated 1.7-million embryos created for IVF in that nation were thrown away.
  • That same report out of Great Britain shows only 7 percent of those created embryos lead to pregnancy. [2]

SNOW BABIES

IVF – THE PLIGHT OF THE “SNOW BABIES”

Have you ever heard of a “Snow Baby?”  Despite the fact there are hundreds of thousands of them, few people have.

“Snow Babies” is the nickname given to the leftover Frozen Embryos after a woman goes through In Vitro Fertilisation, or IVF.   IVF, of course, is a medical process that assists a woman who has had trouble having a baby to get pregnant.

The secret to success for IVF is numbers.  IVF usually entails the creation of multiple human embryos outside of the woman’s body.  Multiple eggs from the woman are fertilised with a man’s sperm.  The embryos are then allowed to develop for several days.  Then one, or more, of the new embryos is implanted in the woman’s uterus with the intention of establishing a pregnancy.

The problem with IVF then becomes the hidden issue no one wants to talk about, or that no mother or couple really wants to think about.   Or in many cases, hadn’t even thought about.  That issue – what to do with the embryos who weren’t implanted in the mother.

Women and/or couples are faced with the decision on whether to donate them to another infertile woman or to freeze them for a future pregnancy.  If they choose that second option, they’re reminded once or twice a year about that choice with a bill that’s usually for hundreds of dollars for storing their frozen embryos.  These frozen embryos are the snow babies.  In Australia alone, it’s estimated there are than more than 120,000 human embryos in storage. [1]

What happens to most of these embryos is really the sad and alarming.  Many are killed by thawing. Other embryos are killed when they are donated for Embryonic Stem Cell Research.  For that to happen, the parents of these embryos had to make a life-changing decision they probably never even considered when beginning the IVF process.

Because of this, Right to Life NSW is strongly against IVF.   The practice fails to protect the lives of millions of embryos who are created, but never used.  IVF puts tens of thousands of women and couples in a difficult position about having to decide the fate of their unused embryos.  Finally, IVF fails to take into account the rights of each and every embryo created during the process. Their right to life is lost in a terrible numbers game.  They are the forgotten “Snow Babies.”

LAW

THE LAW

A new study from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) released in 2013 shows women are confused by overlapping and complicated rules concerning the use or destruction of frozen embryos held in storage after In Vitro Fertilisation.

At issue, how long the embryos can be kept in frozen storage. Lead Researcher, Professor Jenni Millbank says, “Current rules around stored IVF embryos are intrusive and disrespectful.  Law should not set blanket storage periods that enforce destruction of embryos after a set period; no should they prevent donation if that is desired.” [3]  The researchers acknowledged the emotional difficulties many women have when it comes to their embryos and what to do with them.  The group called for changes in the law, policies and practices in the area of IVF and frozen embryos.

In Australia, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Methods are licensed by the Infertility Society of Australia.  The National Health and Medical Research Council provides ethical guidelines for IVF research and practice.  In Australia, it is illegal to buy or sell any human tissue, including sperm, eggs and embryos.

New South Wales is the only state in Australia that hasn’t introduced legislation to regulate the practice of IVF, as well as other ART methods.  NSW operates in accordance with the National Health and Medical Council’s ethical guidelines for the ART.

Embryo donation is legal in all Australian states and territories.   In NSW, embryo donation is regulated by the by Assisted Reproductive Technology Act of 2007 and the Assisted Reproductive Regulation of 2009. [4]  Both provide details of who can donate, how many times they can donate and how long embryos can be kept in storage.  In NSW, donated embryos can be stored for 10 years from the date the embryo was obtained from the donor.

SCIENCE

THE SCIENCE

The In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment cycle involves five main steps: [5]

  • A hormone is administered to the woman over a number of days to induce the maturation of multiple eggs
  • Egg pick-up from ovarian follicles under anaesthesia.
  • Fertilisation of the collected eggs by incubating them with sperm over a few hours in the laboratory
  • Embryo maturation during which a fertilised egg is cultured for 2–3 days to form a cleavage embryo (6–8 cells) or 5–6 days to create a blastocyst (70–100 cells).
  • Transfer of one or two fresh embryos into the uterus in order for a pregnancy to occur.

It is common to produce several embryos.  But statistics from many IVF centres show that usually one, or at most two, embryos are placed inside the woman’s uterus. That minimizes the changes of multiple births.

The remaining embryos are then stored at clinics.   Many of those will be used in future IVF cycles. But many of the remaining unused embryos won’t be needed, leaving a mother or both parents to face a difficult choice on what to do with their embryos.

As for the success rate of IVF, in 2009, approximately 35,000 women in Australia and New Zealand went through IVF.  There were 70,000 cycles performed in these women, resulting in the births of 13,000 children. [6]

 

MORE FACTS

THE FACTS:

  • FOR WOMEN: The success rate for IVF is continuing to go up. But in the end, it’s still below 40% for women as having as many as five IVF cycles. The cost of each of those procedures is thousands of dollars.  Regardless of the outcome, women are faced with the difficult decision about what to do with their unused embryos.  University of Technology, Sydney researcher, Professor Jenni Milbank worked with other researchers on IVF and its impact on women. She writes about the decision women face, “Policies and practices in modern day IVF must acknowledge the emotional significance of embryos, particularly to the women who underwent painful and invasive treatment to create them.”
  • FOR MEN: The fathers of unused embryos face these same, difficult, life-changing decisions that women face about what to do with the unused embryos who aren’t implanted in the body of their wife or partner.
  • FOR SOCIETY: One of the more troubling aspects of IVF is how the process has given some parents a mentality which views a baby as something that can be bought.  Also, many IVF clinics screen for genetic disorders. Many embryos are then destroyed based on those disorders, and not given a chance for life.
  • FOR THE UNBORN EMBRYOS: They are the voiceless in all of this. They are created as part of process that only succeeds because of sheer numbers. They are the ones who don’t make it into a woman’s body to be given a chance at life. Many more who do make it that far also don’t survive the pregnancy. Then there are those who are killed, left to die, or donated to medical research – all without any say of their own.

[1] http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/19227954/Press%20Kit/Press_Release.pdf

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2255107/1-7-million-embryos-created-IVF-thrown-away-just-7-cent-lead-pregnancy.html

[3] ] http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/19227954/Press%20Kit/Press_Release.pdf

 [4] http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/sessionalview/sessional/act/2007-69.pdf

[5]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/19227954/Press%20Kit/Fact%20Sheet%20IVF%20and%20Storage.pdf

[6] Yueping Wang, Alan Macaldowie, Irene Hayward, Georgina Chambers, et al, Assisted Reproductive Technology in Australia and New Zealand 2009 (AIHW, 2011)