Nigerian Religious Leaders, Traditionalist Raise Fresh Concern Over Assisted Conception: ‘It is antithetical to the ideal of a family’

Just of recent, the medical field recorded yet another milestone when a 73-year-old Indian woman, Mangayamma Yaramati, was delivered of a set of twins following assisted conception (more commonly known as in-vitro fertilisation, IVF) process.

But no sooner had the story broken than critics of assisted conception hit the street with scathing criticisms of the procedure done on the woman who they claimed is too old to nurture the babies.

The disapproval, which trails this medical feat, heightened a day later when the 82-year-old father of the new babies reportedly suffered a sudden stroke and was hospitalized.

Assisted conception has been criticised for its unnaturalness but fertility experts remain unperturbed by this criticism.

A renowned fertility doctor and founder of Omni Medical Clinic, Professor Osato Giwa-Osagie, said he feels fulfilled putting smiles on faces of couples who have difficulty in getting pregnant naturally. According to the professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology:

“It is always a very good feeling when you assist couples to get what they desperately want. People who don’t have children are very desperate; they are prepared to do almost anything. But when you are prepared to use your skill to assist them to have babies, it gives you a good feeling.”

But for antagonists of this procedure, there are moral grounds to oppose assisted conception. Opponents of the procedure often hinge their disapproval on the claim that the process encroaches on the sanctity of human life and marriage. They contend that marital act has an intrinsic meaning of unity and procreation.

They, therefore, insist that procreation should not be intentionally excluded from sexual intercourse and neither should it take place outside of sexual intercourse, as it is the case with IVF.

SEE ALSO: Ufuoma McDermott Shares Inspiring Thoughts On Assisted Reproduction Technology And It’s Definitely Spot-On! | WATCH

Similarly, opponents of IVF also fault the procedure with the claim that it deprives children born by this process the right to have a fully human origin through conception in conformity with the personal nature of human beings.

In other words, children should be and have a right to be the fruit of the one-flesh union of marital intercourse.
This, they maintain, is morally different from bringing a child into the world by a technique in a laboratory.

In IVF, a child does not come into existence as a fruit supervening upon the one-flesh union of a husband and wife. They come into existence as the end product of a laboratory procedure.

According to the Chief Missioner, Ansar-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheik Abdul-Rahman Ahmad, anchoring the opposition to assisted conception on these arguments does not reflect the position of Islam on IVF.

Sheik Ahmad said Islam accepts assisted conception based on certain principles. The Muslim cleric explained:

“In the first place, the egg and the sperm must belong to a legitimately married couple. That is, it is the sperm of the husband that is used to fertilize the egg of the wife. In situations where we have donor sperm and donor egg planted into a woman is not acceptable in Islam.

Whereby the sperm from a man is taken to fertilize the egg of a woman that the man is not legally married to is forbidden. This is because Islam places great premium on the family and that paternity and maternity must not be confused. The lineage must be made pure.”

He maintained that a child must have a father and a mother that are known and natural. He added:

“This is because in Islam, inheritance is based on this. This also determines marriage and also determines a whole lot of relationships in the family. If this is taken care of, then Islam accepts assisted conception. It is just the same thing like technology of blood transfusion or the technology of organ transplant.”

SEE ALSO: “People Shouldn’t Be Ashamed Of Their Fertility Struggles” John Legend Opens Up About Continuing IVF Treatment With Wife Chrissy Teigen

Adherents of traditional religion equally share this view. An Ifa priest, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, said Yoruba tradition and culture treat any child produced through the sperm or egg of any person other than those of the parents of the child as a bastard. Chief Elebuibon posited:

“IVF is acceptable to the culture and tradition of the Yoruba people provided it is done with the sperm of the husband and not a donor sperm. What Yoruba traditional religion or culture frowns on is to use donor sperm or egg. If it involves donor’s egg or sperm, such a child could be likened to a bastard. This is antithetical to the ideal of family in Yoruba land.”

A Christian cleric and National Secretary, Association of Orphanages and Homes Operators in Nigeria, ASOHON, Dr Gabriel Oyediji, noted that since the essence of Christianity is to solve problems, assisted conception must be viewed as a solution to one of man’s many problems. He pointed out:

“In Hosea chapter 4:6, God says that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge and for rejection of knowledge. You can reject or accept knowledge because you have choices to make. But if God does not bless a couple, let them do IVF 20 times it will not work.

We want to believe that IVF is a way of bringing solution to a problem and a way of bringing happiness to homes and couples, who have difficulty in getting their own children naturally. Christianity does not stop us of from solving problems. In fact, the whole essence of Christianity is to solve problems.”

However, Dr. Oyediji voiced his reservation about the multiple embryos that are terminated during the procedure, which according to him violates the sanctity of life. He added:

SEE ALSO: Michelle Obama Details Her Miscarriage And How She Conceived Her Daughters, Sasha And Malia Using IVF

“The argument here is about multiple embryos. It’s not just a pair that is fertilized. In normal situation only a pair is fertilized except when you have twins or triplets.

But in IVF you can have 100 pairs of eggs and sperms fertilized and when you have such large numbers of fertilization taking place you will have to terminate the weaker ones, which amounts to abortion. That is where my personal religious view comes in and that is where the biggest problem lies.

Except they can only make it a pair but as it is now they have to fertilize several pairs and start to look for the healthiest ones and eliminate the weaker ones. In animal production, for instance in fishery, from what we collect from male and female fish, we can produce over a hundred thousand fish.

Those that will die, die naturally, not we killing them. In humans, the same thing happens, be it artificial insemination or IVF,  you cannot guarantee the survival of a pair so you must have multiple embryos. At the end of the day they will have to terminate the weaker ones and keep the healthier ones.

It means you are killing several to make room for one. So if you are looking at embryo as a life and you have to terminate several as much as a thousand to pave the way for one pair in IVF, that is no longer an abortion but a genocide.”

For couples who are desperate to have their own children, the arguments against assisted conception pales in significance compared to other hurdles against their desire to become proud parents through IVF. The decision to go ‘artificial’ in their search for their own babies comes with different concerns.

Mrs. Susan Olanrewaju had her set of twins 22 years after her wedding and her only regret is that it took her and her husband a long time to take the decision to settle for IVF. Mrs. Olanrewaju enthused:

“Our desire to have our children took us to several places; we didn’t consider IVF as a viable option because of the fact that the success rate of the procedure was just too discouraging especially when you consider what it costs to undergo the procedure.

But at a point after trying diverse options we decided to go for IVF. The decision to go for it was actually influenced by a few positive testimonies we heard then. Here I am today, a mother of a set of twins.”

SEE ALSO: Gynaecologist, Theodore Yakubu, Counsels Women Above Age 35 On What To Do Before Getting Pregnant

Professor Osagie confirmed that the success rate and the cost of IVF are the major downsides of the procedure. He explained:

“IVF has its negative aspects. One, it is quite expensive. You can imagine spending over one million. Sometimes close to N2 million for one attempt of IVF and it doesn’t succeed. In fact, I think the patients have got used to this expenditure.

When I go back, like 15 years, some people used to just weep like babies if they did not get pregnant following an IVF attempt. This is in spite of the fact that they would have been told in advance.

It’s one-in-three that gets pregnant. The pregnancy rate is 30 to 35 per cent. You have to tell them when you are counseling them. But when it fails, some of they are like: ‘Oh my God, one million has gone down the drain! That is one of its downsides.

Secondly, the pregnancy rate is still between 25 percent and 40 percent. More than half of those that do it will not get pregnant and they have to try again. But the way to look at that is to realize that sometimes you are dealing with someone who has zero percentage chance of getting pregnant naturally.

For instance, a woman who has no tubes because she’s had ectopic pregnancy on both sides. There is no way she can get pregnant except by IVF. A woman who has attained menopause, that doesn’t menstruate anymore or menstruate regularly, the chances of becoming pregnant naturally are very slim, she has to settle for IVF.”

Source: Daily Sun

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