Catholics need to anticipate how the media will present this issue when the legislation is debated
Last week the government agreed to draft legislation to research three-parent IVF. This will allow for the nucleus in a human embryo with defective mitochondria to replace the nucleus in a donor egg with healthy mitochondria. The resulting child will have the nuclear DNA of the parents, with his or her mitochondrial DNA coming from another woman, where the mother’s defective mitochondrial DNA could have lead the child to suffer blindness, or other defects. Sounds brilliant, right?
I’ll leave the experts to explain the technical, moral and ethical questions raised here; certainly the Church’s position on IVF and the value of life from conception is well known. What I want to consider is how the secular media are reacting to, and presenting this story. Simply looking at the BBC and Channel 4 websites some common reporting trends appear immediately, and if we are aware of these we can anticipate our colleagues’ and friends’ arguments for three-parent IVF since we will understand how the story has been presented to them.
Both outlets give the opposing point of view very little space; they also draw attention to people suffering from these conditions, perhaps a mother who has lost children to them, to try to win your heart if they haven’t convinced your intellect. This tactic also makes you feel guilty to take an opposing view when you are shown a suffering person who could, supposedly, have benefited from three-parent IVF.
This legislation will only affect women with defective mitochondria who want to have biological children and any resulting babies that they have. It will not help people who suffer, or have suffered, from defective mitochondria, and we should not be duped into thinking that any new legislation will help them directly. The idea that women in this position could adopt a child is never explored.
Both outlets also explore the hypothetical benefits of 3-parent IVF extensively. The BBC’s Fergus Walsh even proclaims that we can “ensure that future generations are healthy”.
Finally, both celebrate that Britain is the first to consider legislating for this research. Melanie McDonagh in the Telegraph rightly says that Britain is leading the world “down a slippery slope”. I would go further: in terms of how society values human life as something of which we are merely stewards, Britain is leading the world in a race to the bottom.
Last week, all that was agreed was to start drafting legislation to be debated in the Commons. Looking at the secular media you would think the legislation had already been drafted. Catholics, and anyone concerned about three-parent IVF, need to anticipate the media distorting this issue again when the draft legislation is finally debated.