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A personal right-to-life story for Naperville fertility clinic protesters

Updated: April 29, 2012 8:14AM

Mary Beth and Michael Brummond went before the Naperville City Council a week ago to voice their moral opposition to the proposed construction of a fertility clinic in that city’s downtown.

In particular, the young couple objected to medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization through which about 60,000 children a year are born in the U.S. ­— many of them right there in Naperville.

Reading a prepared statement that he also sent to local newspapers, Michael Brummond said a child born through IVF “becomes a manufactured commodity” and is “reduced to an object, a product.”

If Naperville officials were to approve the zoning for the fertility clinic, he warned, they would be consenting to a “worldview in which a child is not procreated, but manufactured” and “not so much born as decanted.”

Have I ever mentioned that my twin boys were born through in vitro fertilization?

No, I never have, but yes, they were.

Please note I said “born” not decanted. Not manufactured. My wife, who went through a very difficult pregnancy to bring them into this world, would especially like to set the Brummonds straight on that score.

Moreover, my children haven’t been “reduced” to anything. They are normal, healthy young adults, unique mainly in the sense each of us is unique, and exceptional mostly to their parents who regard them every single day as a blessing from the same God who the Brummonds say tells them such children should not be born.

Mentioning the manner of my boys’ birth never seemed pertinent until now. It’s personal. Nobody else’s business really, and as angry as I am with the Brummonds’ hateful comments, I would have happily ignored them as just another pair of zealots.

Unfortunately, though, they weren’t alone. They were part of a large contingent of right-to-lifers at the council meeting, many of them from St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville, where Michael Brummond is the New Evangelization director.

Other speakers from their group threatened to make that suburb’s cute and thriving downtown the scene of the same sort of protests they have carried out at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, in essence equating fertility treatments with abortion.

Worse yet, Naperville Mayor George Pra­del and the council members blinked under the threat, postponing a vote on the project until next Tuesday amid indications they may use the time to look for some legal pretext to scuttle the clinic.

It might interest Naperville city fathers — and mothers ­— to know that in the past 25 years, more than 800,000 children have been born in the U.S. (4 million worldwide) through assisted reproductive technologies, mainly IVF, as I expect they will be hearing from a few of them and their parents.

IVF was still relatively rare — and success even rarer — when my kids were among 7,065 babies born through such procedures in 1991. My wife and I were pushing 40 at the time. She could hear the clock ticking, and our years-long efforts to have a baby were getting nowhere. We tried most everything the doctors suggested, including fertility drugs. As any couple with infertility problems can tell you, it was a very stressful and difficult period in our lives.

Finally, we chose to try IVF. My wife underwent a course of injected medicines to produce extra eggs, which were then surgically retrieved from her ovary and fertilized in a laboratory dish with my semen (sorry if that’s too much information). Finally, the developing embryos were transferred to her uterus. Her five eggs produced three embryos, all of which were transferred with the hope that just one would survive.

To our shock — and great joy ­— my wife became pregnant with triplets on the first try. Sadly, one of the babies died late in what was a sometimes harrowing pregnancy and was stillborn. Thus, the greatest event in our lives was also the source of tremendous heartbreak, one more reason I’m not going to leave this fight to the next guy.

My wife and I did not have to confront the issue of how to handle unused or “extra” embryos that are at the heart of the objections of the right-to-life crowd. We didn’t have any. But I believe those decisions are best left to the affected couples.

The Naperville City Council should be making its decision about the fertility clinic only on the basis of zoning, but if they want to make this about Life, they should tell us whose lives they would deny.

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