Them Before Us joined with allies in Minnesota to combat a bill that would have required insurance companies to subsidize the fertility industry and intentionally deny children a relationship with one or both of their biological parents. At the end of Minnesota’s legislative session the language was removed from the final version of the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill in conference committee.

The fertility industry is in the business of creating lives outside the womb that can only be sustained inside the womb. These human lives are left in limbo, at the mercy of an unregulated and unethical industry. Only 7% of lab-created children are born alive.

The majority of IVF clinics engage in genetic screening to weed out “less desirable” embryos, despite the questionable accuracy of these screenings. In 2015, it was estimated that almost half of the clinics offering genetic screening allowed couples to choose or reject embryos on the basis of sex. Those who are not implanted are abandoned, disposed of, or “donated” to research. The death toll from IVF exceeds that of abortion, and, while the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that the number of embryos who have been abandoned to an uncertain fate by commissioning parents in the U.S. is in the millions. This number continues to grow every year.

Children are not products to be commissioned and rejected based on whether or not they meet desired specifications, and they are certainly not disposable. Even the children who survive IVF are subjected to the commodification that is inherent to the practice and have described feeling like they were a product, as well as survivor’s guilt knowing how many of their siblings did not make it. IVF is a violation of the human dignity of the children involved and sacrifices children’s rights — including their right to life — on the altar of adult desires.

The bill would also have required subsidization of third-party reproduction—surrogacy and donor conception. These practices intentionally violate a child’s right to a relationship with one or both of his biological parents, leaving them yearning for biological connection and the family they never knew.

In Them Before Us’s testimony submitted to the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee, we shared Ellie’s story:

I was born as the result of a profit-driven medical clinic selling parental rights without regard for what is best for the end product, the child produced… We, the donor conceived, are being denied some pretty basic human rights.  We are commodified, existing only because our biological parent was willing to sell genetic material in order to make someone else a parent… We are denied medical family histories, histories that might one day save our lives, as well as genealogical histories that would help us piece together our identities.

Ellie is not alone. According to one study, 70% of donor-conceived adults believe that society should end the practice of gamete donation and 62% said they found the practice to be unethical. Brian, a child of surrogacy, wrote, “When you exchange something for money it is called a commodity. Babies are not commodities. Babies are human beings. How do you think this makes us feel to know that there was money exchanged for us?” Another donor conceived individual wrote, “My heart bleeds daily for my unknown family. My life had a price and I am the one who bears the consequences.”

The voices of those who have been brought into the world through donor conception and IVF deserve to be heard. Their perspective matters as lawmakers consider proposals that would subsidize an unethical industry that commodifies children. This is why Them Before Us speaks out against these policy proposals. Minnesota’s rejection of this legislation is a win for children’s rights.

You can read Them Before Us’s full testimony for the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee here.

Image credit: Ken Lund, Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0)