IVF is Getting a Major Media Boost from Michelle Obama

x“Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity.” (CCC 2379)

Official 2013 portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House
Official 2013 portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House (photo: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has 11.4 million Twitter followers, one of the most influential voices in the nation, and a new book coming out on Tuesday.

And she’s using this platform to promote IVF in an interview with ABC that aired Sunday night. Pre-airing clips show that Obama revealed in both the interview and in her forthcoming book that Sasha and Malia were created through IVF after Obama had a miscarriage.

On Saturday, this revelation had dozens of prominent media outlets reporting on it. CNN, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post all ran stories with headlines praising Obama for sharing her story.

As I wrote at CatholicVote, IVF is morally wrong for any number of reasons. It violates the right to life, treats unborn children like chattel, leads to more support for eugenics and gives more ammunition to same-sex “marriage” advocates who say that sexual intercourse isn’t necessary for creating the next generation.

IVF also isn’t necessary for raising children if a couple is infertile. There are hundreds of thousands of babies and older children just waiting to be adopted.

But there’s a lot more that Catholics can do besides use cold logic when discussing IVF with friends and family – something that may happen with Obama’s media megaphone formally behind IVF.


Helping friends and family struggling with infertility

First, as evangelical author Chelsea Patterson Sobolik noted in her book Longing for Motherhood and told The Stream’s Liberty McArtor in May (disclosure: McArtor and I are former Stream colleagues, and I am a current contributor), listening is often the best thing outsiders can do to help those struggling with infertility:

“I truly don’t believe we can fully begin to heal until we’ve fully grieved what’s missing,” she told The Stream. But that runs contrary to how some Christians reacted when she opened up about her infertility. Though well-meaning, they attempted to pull her out of her grief before she was ready, rather than giving her space to walk through it.

“It makes us feel so uncomfortable when we don’t know what to say to someone who’s suffering,” she said. But she cautions against the “quick fix” mentality, including tossing out cliché Bible verses meant to encourage.

We all want to help those we care about. But sometimes the best thing we can do is have an open ear and heart instead trying to find the “silver bullet” answer.

An important part of listening – one which is a personal struggle of mine! – is asking how you can help someone struggling with infertility. Understanding how you can best help the person through their struggles right now is often more helpful than telling the person a “solution” like “trust in God” or “other people have gone through this and thrived” or “many children would love to be adopted by you!”

Sobolik also “challenges the notion that motherhood is the ultimate calling for every woman,” according to McArtor. As Catholics, we know that God has many callings for women. While Sobolik’s target is evangelical churches, her admonition is a good reminder for lay and clergy Catholic leaders, especially at the parish level, to make sure women know all of the options which God may present for their sanctification.


Educating your friends and family

A 2013 Pew Research survey found that just 12 percent of the U.S. public believes IVF to be immoral. You have a quite a challenge refuting Obama, who is (a) popular, (b) sympathetic, and (c) on a huge platform in our mainstream press.

I think the strongest argument against IVF is the fact that each embryo is a child. The same arguments against abortion hold here — that the science of unborn life matches that which we see in the Bible. That by freezing and/or killing unborn children, we deny them their right to as full a life as they can possibly have.

Like abortion, IVF also turns babies into belongings of their parents instead of independent children of God. The child is created for the sake of the parents, not for its own inherent value.