My wife and I tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully for several years to conceive a child starting before we were married (in 1998). First, we tried in vitro fertilization. When that failed, Janis called Dr. Jamie Grifo at NYU Medical Center, an college roommate who is one of the nation’s leading fertility experts. She became his patient and we eventually conceived using an egg donation and now have a wonderful 2 year old son, Jonah.
Dr. Jamie Grifo, infertility
specialist at NYU Medical Center
Janis had great trepdidation before doing the egg donation procedure because she felt deeply mournful that she could not conceive a child biologically hers. She certainly does not feel that way about Jonah now. But this front page New York Times article about Dr. Grifo’s research reminded me how tragic it is that women like Janis have the option of producing a biological child foreclosed: Pregnancy Created With Egg Nucleus of Infertile Woman.
nuclear transfer under the microscope
I thought it would be powerful to write an editorial letter to the Times about Janis’ experience with infertility. I thought it’d be best to write the letter in her name since the feelings and experiences are all hers. The letter follows:
I am a woman who is infertile. Because of my age (mid 40s), my eggs are no longer viable. I met and married my husband five years ago. Neither of us ever had children before. We could not conceive naturally. Eventually, we came to Dr. Grifo, whose clinic helped us conceive a beautiful son, Jonah, through egg donation.
Nuclear transfer would be a perfect treatment for me because I do not have viable eggs. The reason it would be perfect is that if some of the nuclear material from my eggs could be introduced into the viable egg of another woman, then I could produce a child who shared my genetic makeup.
Let me tell you why this is so important to infertile women like me. All our lives women are taught (and gladly believe) that an important part of our identity is to produce children. It is something that genuinely gives us great joy and pleasure. To find out that you cannot perform this major role in life is devastating. You feel like you are less than a full person and not fully a woman. No one who has not been through this can understand the depths of despair that this causes. Nuclear transfer would be an answer to the prayers of all women like me.
It is most unfortunate that this life-enhancing procedure has fallen prey to abortion politics. This is yet another example of how yoking politics and medicine produces both bad social decisions and stunted medical research. Should we be surprised that Dr. Grifo allowed Chinese researchers to pursue his work? His responsibility is to medicine and the advancement of medical knowledge; not to ‘American medicine’ or ‘American research.’ If right wing abortion ideologues shut down promising avenues of medical research, they should not expect that such research will stop. It will merely move to a country that values such research (or at least tolerates it). That leaves American medicine and the world’s women who would benefit so much the poorer.
Without the nuclear transfer option, I embraced egg donation as my only option for conceiving a child. Make no mistake, I love and cherish my son who came from such an egg donation. While I love him in the deepest way a parent can love a child and make no distinction between him and a child of mine who was genetically related to me…still, having a biologically related child is a choice I wish I had before we conceived my son. Passing on one’s legacy (whether genetic or spiritual) to future generations through childbearing is one of the most profound things that a human being can do.
For more information about nuclear transfer and its role in the national cloning/stem cell research debate, see the RESOVE.org site.