Why IVF Should Be Banned

Warning: Rant follows….

Last week I had a relatively heated email “discussion” with my friends, which started as a result of the story last week on the Octuplets that were born on IVF. This so called “good news” story has started to turn bad when it was revealed that she was a single mother, who already had 6 kids under the age of 8 and lives with her own beleaguered mother (who has now threatened to move out). Even before the woman’s existing kids were revealed, I was appalled at how the story was being portrayed as a marvellous thing.

I have found myself in recent years thinking more and more about the cause of the world’s problems, and have come to the inescapable conclusion that the biggest threat to the human race is ourselves. Specifically our unfettered and seemingly limitless population growth. Certainly it has to be wrong to spend money on IVF treatment when there are starving orphans in the world already, no?   At the end of the day, the planet is only so big and has a finite ability to produce raw materials. It’s a simple logical jump therefore to realise that the planet can only cope with a finite number of people.  The big questions this conclusion raises are:

1) What is the optimum population the world can support?
2) What is the optimum population our country can support?

I used the word “optimum” rather than “maximum” deliberately to imply a quality of life component. Who wants to live but in squalor? What alarms me as a voter, is that I don’t ever remember someone in government ever mentioning what the right population size of the country is though? The obvious implications of this discussion are 2 extremely un-politically correct conversations:

1) How many kids should people have?
2) How much immigration should be allowed?

These are 2 massively emotive subjects. People get extremely animated when you mention the suggestion that they should put a limit on their procreation, as I found when I discussed this with my friends. Personally I’m coming to the view that anyone that has more than 2 kids is being at best selfish and at worst are behaving in a blatantly socially unacceptable way. It’s no surprise that this is an extremely unpopular view. God forbid I suggest as well that immigration is curbed. It occurs to me however that any conversation about population and immigration control is pointless, until you first determine what the ideal population of the country should be?

I was pleasantly surprised this weekend however, when I read on the news that Jonathon Porritt, who is chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission, has said:

“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,… I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible. It is the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and then you don’t really hear anyone say the “p” word.”

It’s great to finally hear someone in gov’t actually having the guts to say it. We simply cannot continue to allow population to grow out of control. The first step must be to stabilize the population, and then direct it towards the considered optimal level. But what are those levels?

The great thing about the internet is that there is always someone out there who thinks the same as you, even if that is that Elvis is living on a B52 bomber on the moon! Well in this case, it’s not something so way out there, it’s the Population Matters organisation (formerly called the Optimum Population Trust), a UK based lobbying group who are greatly concerned, as I am, about over population and population growth. It was this graph that really got my attention:

One of the arguments for a continued high birth and immigration rate are down to demographics. It’s argued that we need younger people and workers coming into the population, in order to help pay for an increasingly ageing population. I consider this to be a shockingly naive opinion, that attempts to manage the country’s finances by turning population management into the world’s biggest pyramid selling scheme. Basically a policy that can only succeed by providing an ever increasingly large number of new workers to support those at the top of the pyramid. The only sustainable approach is that the elderly become self sustaining.

What do you think?  Am I evil to say that the number of human lives should not increased without restraint or thought for sustainability?  This also brings in potentially even more difficult issues of how much money and resources should be spent on extending the life of the elderly, at the expense of the young…? But perhaps that’s a discussion for another time!  Either way, I’m interested in your opinion…

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Tonester 3 February 2009, 5:56 pm

    Col, I think you make a number of interesting points here, although I preferred the previous post concerning “Wife” jokes :).

    I agree that people with more than two kids are being a bit greedy/selfish as they are using or will require more resources than average to sustain their family. Not just the obvious things like food and state benefits, but for example they will usually need bigger cars which take up more space and are generally less fuel efficent.

    Interestingly in a newspaper article I read recently, the practice of having more kids was seen as a status symbol amongst certain people. E.g. “Look at me, I can afford 4 children”. The flip-side of this argument are the Scallies that have more kids just to get a bigger council house! This reminds me of a classic quote I heard in the local supermarket “Come on Britney, we don’t want to miss your Grandad’s 30th Birthday party…” 😉

    Not sure what can be done about it though. Its a very emotive subject and Countries such as China that have tackled it in a “logical/mathematical” way have come into trouble for human rights issues.

  • Colin McNulty 3 February 2009, 8:21 pm

    > “Come on Britney, we don’t want to miss your Grandad’s 30th Birthday party…”

    ROFLMAO!! 😀

    > have come into trouble for human rights issues.

    Indeed. Human rights are an interesting topic though. What exactly are your “human rights”? Do human rights extend to being able to procreate without limit? Should human rights ever be suspended, e.g. when you break into someone’s house? (I think so yes, another topic for another day, unless you haven’t yet read what happened when I caught an intruder in my house.

  • chriss 5 February 2009, 10:55 am

    I am very pleased to see more people starting to discuss that topic.

    A fantastic little movie (20 min) about our problems partly caused by overpopulation
    can be watched here:


    1) What is the optimum population the world can support?

    Well that question is easy to answer.

    The Nature has a certain capability of rebuildig resources and cleaning up our waste.

    Those capabilities can be seen as limits which have to be respected.

    If we don’t respect those limits then the resources which we need to live will decrease.

    So after all i think that those limits determine the optimum population.

    Look at any animal species you want, they all live in perfect balance and there is no single one which is useing more resources as the nature can rebuild.

    It is a simple law of life.

    At the moment we are cutting the branch on which we are sitting.

    There may be other rules but those 2 are essential.

    2) How many kids should people have?

    Well i think everyone should only have one child because we need to get in balance with nature again.

    Take 2 humans and make 1 out of it

    It is an expotential function with negative grothrate.

    Like that:
    in the first generation the world-population is diveidet by 2

    in the second generation the world-population is diveidet by 4

    in the third generation the world-population is diveidet by 8

    in the fourth generation the world-population is diveidet by 16

    in the 10. generation the world-population is diveidet by 1024

    If we don’t get in balance with nature again then nature itself will force us to do so.

    After all, we have no choice but we still can choose the way of rebalancing.
    (but time is running out fast)

    3) What exactly are your “human rights”?
    Well i think, we have the right to do what ever we want as long as we cause no harm.

    Take a minute and think about it.
    At the moment we do dramatic large amount of harm.

    -harm to nature
    -harm to our childs and to the childs of our

    So at the moment we are absolutly disrespecting their rights.

    We don’t own the world, we just lent it from the next generation!


  • Colin McNulty 5 February 2009, 9:42 pm

    That Story of Stuff is a great watch, thanks Chris.

  • Soraya 10 February 2009, 10:57 am

    Obviously population growth is a concern and having many children can be seen as globally irresponsible but I wanted to comment on the point about whether IFV should be available when there are starving orphans in the world.
    The need to have children is primative and instinctive. It’s a powerful drive to pass on our own DNA. It’s also a way of ensuring that the child has the best of starts from the very beginning. From before day one we want to make sure they have everything they need to be physically and mentally healthy and strong.
    Everyone has there own idea’s how to best raise a child. When you adopt a child you are taking on whatever problems and psycological issues from their previous experiences. The degree of which obviously depends on their age. The drive to adopt a child must partially come more from a desire to help another human being rather than a need to reproduce. Should we deny our instincts?
    In the event that we are not able to reproduce naturally should we just accept the fact and move on? What if you are capable of having children but your partner is not?
    Adoption is a difficult business. It takes up to two years and many people who would make good parents are not eligible. My best friend (who is an excellent father) wanted to adopt and wasn’t able because of a white collar crime from when he was 19. Another friend of mine re married a woman 12 years his junior, were unable to have children natuarally but were not allowed to adopt because he was deemed too old at 40.
    Multiple births from IVF are decreasing. As the technique is refined and more implants survive less embryo’s are implanted. Usually only 2.
    The Dr involved in the Octuplet case has been severely criticised for using 6.
    All 14 of the Octuplet woman’s children are a result of IVF. She is obviously a graphic example of how this amazing procedure has been taken advantage of and abused. Should we take away the hope of childless people to have children of their own because of a few selfish individuals?
    I believe that IVF should be available but with strict rules and and sensible guidlines.

  • Colin McNulty 10 February 2009, 8:18 pm

    You make some good points Soraya, thanks for the detailed comment. Hmmm can’t have kids and can’t adopt…. Is it a case that the adoption system is broken? Is IVF the answer in this situation?

    Having a kid myself, I do understand the genetic imperative to reproduce. And excellent boss I had once (Steve Squires at Instron) was of the opinion that your sole reason for being on this fair planet was simply reproduction.

    Whilst I can see an argument for IVF as a third option, once all others have been tried, I can’t help but come back to the feeling that it’s a lot of money to spend on creating new life, when the world is struggling to cope with the life it already has to support. I guess it comes down to what level you view the topic at: from the parents level, or from the planets level.

  • Cecily Smith 10 February 2009, 8:54 pm

    I agree with Soraya, but I do think that adoption should be made easier,and I don’t think health care funds should support IVF.I belong to Optimum Population Trust,and contributed a suggestion on a birth control policy on Jonathon Porritt’s blog on January 5th.last.Much of the “animation” Colin refers to, is because people only think of China’s enforced “one child ” policy, and forget that the terrible famine that killed thousands of people in the late 50s and early 60s was the reason.Which would have been worse, with the level of China’s development at that time? More famine, or the one child policy?People don’t think about it enough to realise, that a birth control policy can be humane, and voluntary, and can be offered with incentives to encourage just one child, or two, and to delay the birth of the woman’s first child so that replacement of those coming to the end of their lives, is delayed by two or three years.Less “animation”, and more readiness to face the issue, might result from discussing concrete details, which is the object of my lengthy post on Jonathon Porritt’s blog.This February is the month of “Global Population Speakout”, when eminent academics and scientists and environmentalists, and ordinary citizens, are trying,together, to bring overpopulation to worldwide public attention.It’s on “Google” .Cecily Smith.

  • Colin McNulty 11 February 2009, 9:08 pm

    Thanks for the great comment Cecily. I don’t normally like to admit it to be honest, but I don’t contribute funds to famine charities, simply because I believe at best it’s only postponing the issue and at worst it’s just storing up more heartache and death for future generations.

  • Common Sense 29 September 2016, 7:51 pm

    Ban IVF until all the abused kids and orphans have homes.

  • Helena 8 January 2017, 12:25 pm

    The subject not touched on here, is the human’s religious propensity, for example, the ‘moral ethics’ of abortion. By this ‘logic’, what God has created, humans dare not destroy. Thus I find it bizarre as well as ironic that there is no problem with humans taking over God’s role when it comes to ‘creation’. Yes, IVF treatment.

    The over- population crisis on earth can only be managed by legal intervention, such as China practised years ago with the one-child policy. However, this, could be drastic and slightly inhuman for enthusiastic procreators. Two children per family would be fair and ideal.

    Before that can happen, the Pope should reconsider the Catholic stance on birth control, people should become less obsessed with what religion proscribes, etc. etc.

    Another irony is that since the 1960s when serious birth control was available, it had not the slightest effect on the population explosion on earth.

  • Matt Schwartz 26 January 2017, 10:13 pm

    What about people who cant have kids and this is the only option. Some people have been wanting to have kids and it is hard to have kids while some people just think about it and they get pregnant!

  • Colin McNulty 27 January 2017, 7:01 am

    This is going to sound really harsh Matt, but I don’t believe that’s a good enough reason. There are many things in life that I want, but can’t have, that’s a reality of life we all have to deal with it.

    My wife and I are fortunate that we have a child, however we’d already made the decision that if for some reason we couldn’t, we weren’t going to go to extraordinary measures to create a new life that nature seem intent to deny us, perhaps for a genetic reason. Instead we were going to adopt.

    Which is my point: IVF is not the “only option” if you want a family, the other is to give a deserving orphan a loving family through adoption.

  • Mandy 8 February 2017, 3:40 am

    But what if a person has five adopted kids,but has 2 biological ones? Are they still being selfish?

  • Colin McNulty 10 February 2017, 6:50 am

    It’s not for me to judge individual family decisions Mandy. How you or anyone lives their life is up to them. I was making a more general point about society as a whole and how unless we know what the target population is, how can anyone really make an informed decision about family planning, or indeed how can gov’t plan for anything.

    Since writing this blog post some 8 years ago, I’ve since come across some excellent info, like this Ted Talk, which suggests that perhaps the world’s population has a built in natural limit around the 12 Billion mark as child survivability improves:


  • Matt Schwartz 10 February 2017, 12:21 pm

    One question have you or your wife ever been told you wont be able to have kids? Do you know what it feels like? If adoptions the answer why’s it so blasted expensive

  • Colin McNulty 10 February 2017, 2:44 pm

    No Matt, I haven’t and don’t know. It must be awful and really test you to the core of what it is to be a man/woman.

    We tried for 3 years to get pregnant and were on the verge of giving up. However we’d already decided that we wouldn’t go to extraordinary measure to create a new life that nature seemed intent on denying us (maybe for good reason?), and instead would adopt a needy child.

  • Shelly 24 February 2017, 8:53 pm

    I think you need to get your facts straight before you blog about IVF and say that it should be banned. You hear about stories on the news like the octuplets and other couples who had very high order multiples through fertility treatments, and assume that means infertile people are having high order multiples left and right when they pursue fertility treatment. That is false. While it does increase the odds of multiples, most women will have singleton pregnancies. When multiples do occur, most of the time they are twin pregnancies. Multiples of a higher order than triplets are very rare. Don’t assume that all doctors are crooked like the octuplets(who lost his license by the way). When pursuing fertility treatment doctors will generally carefully monitor the woman, one of the reasons being to see how many eggs are going to released from the follicles, if there’s too many, she’ll probably be told to hold off on having unprotected sex.

    Of babies born, babies conceived through IVF account for around 1% or less births. It’s rare. Most can conceive their kids naturally. If you are so concerned with overpopulation, it really makes no sense whatsoever to focus your attention to a smaller group of people who need help to conceive. You should be more concerned with people like the Duggars, and others in the Quiverfull movement. There’s a lot of hypocrisy there. People who have lots of naturally conceived children do not face the same scrutiny.

    Adoption is not the same thing as having a biological child. It doesn’t cure the yearn the infertile person will have, to go through pregnancy, feeling the kicks, giving birth and breastfeeding. It can cost a lot more money to adopt a child. Then if you do have the money, the fact is that simply being infertile does not mean they will qualify to adopt. They are not exempt from the extensive home/health inspections and background checks. You can be disqualified for a number of things that shouldn’t and don’t matter when raising a child. You can have an adoption about to occur only for the birth mom to change their mind. Also, closed adoptions are rare nowadays. Most are open and are considered better for the child. It may be legally binding and it may involve needing to send pictures and updates, or even visits with the birth parents. They may need to go through a judge to stop visits, if they feel it’s not a good thing. Even if the adoption is closed the child is going to be curious about their birth parents most likely and may want to track them down and have a relationship with them. Like I said, it is not the same thing and experience as having a biological child. Genetics do matter, despite what the adoption fanatics tell infertile couples to try to guilt them into adopting. It’s a calling. They aren’t a consolation prize.

  • Shelly 25 February 2017, 3:23 pm

    Oh yeah I wanted to bring up another point I forgot to mention yesterday. You indicated in your last two comments about not taking extreme measures to conceive because of possible genetic reasons. There are a lot of environmental and mechanical causes of infertility. Even if there were genetic causes, the fact is lots of fertile people pass on bad stuff to their children, many illnesses which are far more debilitating and can be fatal…mental illnesses like schizophrenia, diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, Huntington’s, just to name a few. I would think someone with these illnesses should be more concerned about passing stuff down to their kids than those experiencing infertility. So is someone with for instance PCOS, endometriosis, or blocked Fallopian tubes genetically inferior? It’s pretty offensive actually to suggest they are less deserving of having biological children. I mean what’s the worst that would happen if you used “extreme measures” to have a child? They might have infertility themselves? While complaining about overpopulation, that’s some serious cognitive dissonance right there.

    Denying people the right to use infertility treatment isn’t going to help the population. You talk about infertility treatment being an “extreme measure” yet you would use “extreme measures” to keep yourself or loved ones alive if there was a severe illness or accident that happened. And that’s what caused overpopulation. Modern medicine keeping people alive. Many people are alive today, thanks to antibiotics and vaccines and such, who would of died 100+ years ago in infancy or childhood. There was no treatment for cancer or heart disease. But, of course you would never shun modern medicine. Blaming overpopulation on infertile people seeking treatment is absurd.

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