The news broke this week that a 66-year old businesswoman in the UK, Elizabeth Munro, will soon give birth to a child conceived via IVF. Unable to convince British doctors to treat her, she underwent fertility treatments in Ukraine.
Of course, there’s been blowback and censure and hand-wringing about what it all means. Even the Times–usually one of the more reasonable UK papers–got in on the act with a nasty bit of bias journalism that quotes bioethicist Professor Severino Antinori, who is horrified by Munro’s pregnancy. Unfortunately, when asked to elaborate on why Munro’s pregnancy is so wrong, Prof. Antinori’s logic is painfully weak (also, he sounds like a total dick):
“I am shocked by the idea of a 66-year-old woman giving birth,” he said. “I respect the choice medically but I think anything over 63 is risky because you cannot guarantee the child will have a loving mother or family.
“It is possible to give a child to the mother up to the age of 83 but it is medically criminal to do this because the likelihood is that after a year or two the child will lose his mum and suffer from psychological problems.
O RLY? Because children born to young mothers are thus guaranteed “a loving mother or family”? And their mother’s gestational age ensures that those kids never lose their moms and never suffer from psychological problems? Who are you fucking kidding, buddy? A 2-minute conversation with your local social worker or family court judge will blow away that excuse. I also love how he “respects the choice medically” but then rushes to personal judgement as fast as he possibly can.
For the record, Professor, there are millions of children in the US being raised by their grandparents–who are old and could die soon!–and neither civic leaders nor pediatricians nor the family court system consider it “medically criminal” for those children to be cared for by loving, responsible senior citizens.
The reason these excuses don’t pass the smell test is that they are, quite simply, a big steaming pile of anti-woman bullshit. You’ll notice that our esteemed bio-ethicist doesn’t say anything at all about whether 66-year old men should be prevented from fathering children. Presumably all the same lame reasoning would apply: older fathers die sooner and might leave those poor children daddy-less (and given the disparity in life expectancy, old dads are likely to die even sooner than old moms). Shouldn’t those men be prevented from using IVF to sire children with their partners? If it’s “medically criminal” for older women, shouldn’t it be “medically criminal” for older men?” And yet, the bioethics community is completely silent on that, at least in this article and pretty much every hand-wringing screed I’ve read about Elizabeth Munro’s impending motherhood. To me, that’s the most obvious sign that this is not about bioethics or the best interests of the child; it’s all about society’s millenia-old compulsion to police what women–but not men!–do with their reproductive systems.
At the end of the day, it’s her uterus. If Munro wants to put a baby in it (or not), or take her womb out and have it bronzed, or whatever…the state–and these double-standard-bearing bioethicists–do not have the right to prevent her from doing it. And until they apply the same “ethical standards” to men, well, they’re really not “ethics” at all, are they?