Aug 252012


One of the highlights of my professional career was serving as a team member (non-clinical) of the second IVF program in the United States.  During the mid-1980s I worked in a marketing role at a hospital in Tampa, Florida.

A group of incredible physicians and researchers specializing in reproductive endocrinology brought in vitro fertilization to the south, only years after the first program came to East Carolina State University.

As the program ramped up, my role was one of educating the media.  Both our local daily newspapers had used the graphic of a “baby in a test tube” to illustrate a story on the program.

That connotes absolutely the wrong issue — there is no test tube involved in IVF.  Egg and sperm are joined in a Petri dish.  Our hospital spent time hosting workshops for local print and television reporters, including PBS Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien and  NBC’s Peabody-award winning journalist Kerry Sanders (Go, Bulls!).

Once the program got going, the city held much excitement about the impending new babies arriving.  An interesting thing about IVF programs is that once the procedure is completed, the parents are just like any other expectant couple.  Unless they tell you, no one knows.

The health care professionals at our hospital were first concerned with the health and safety of mother and baby as well as protecting the family’s privacy.  Promoting their program was only secondary to all that, but they determined it a necessary evil.

Because of HPPA, I cannot discuss specific patients.

What I can say is that several families came forward after the birth of their child. What a joy to share in their stories.  Since this was a new technology, there were couples who had been waiting years to conceive a child and were willing to do whatever it took.  The program was highly regulated and had specific regulations people might find foolish now, only married couples for example.

I was fortunate to serve in a small role on a wonderful team that helped bring joy to so many families.  Now the procedure and others than came after are almost so common they aren’t talked about much anymore.

As someone who also experienced infertility and then bore a beautiful child, I feel for anyone going through that pain.  And I rejoice when it is conquered.


Yet a wind is blowing into Tampa, and I’m not talking about Isaac the potential hurricane that may blow the city away.
No I’m talking about the ill wind that is setting us back decades in women’s rights.  The ill wind that caused Huff Post to put up a coat hanger on it’s cover to illustrate the madness of the Republican party.

Abortion.  No exception for rape or the life of the mother.

Personhood.  More accountability for a zygote in a Petri dish than a starving child in Chicago or a man on death row in Dallas.
Rape.  Rape is rape.  Period.  It’s a violent act, primarily against women, that has nothing to do with sex.

Getting pregnant.  Yes, you can get pregnant from being raped.  Any fourth grade whose heard the talk about Kotex products and becoming a woman can tell you that unprotected intercourse can cause an unwanted pregnancy.

The Republican platform hasn’t changed much since Ronald Reagan stepped up to the Big Boy chair in 1980.  I voted for John Anderson.
Yet this ill wind blowing through Tampa is setting women’s rights back decades, back to the days of back-alley abortionists and the dark history that accompanies the stories we’ve all heard but don’t want to acknowledge.

Seen in contrast to Tampa’s triumph in bringing hundreds of new lives into the world through reproductive technology, I can’t help but see this convention as a tragedy for our times.  If these assaults on women are allowed to stand, all reproductive technology is in danger.
Even Tagg Romney’s child was conceived through IVF.

Under this brave new world concocted by the extreme right  — (whose representative told media yesterday that the ‘Republican platform was not the same as Mitt’s platform — uh huh) — in this brave new world there IS no respect for all human life, especially those who are fully formed and cannot fight for themselves.

Published August 23, 2013 at Open Salon and awarded an Editor’s Pick.

%d bloggers like this: