The modern world is filled with scientific innovations that have advanced the quality and longevity of life. There was a time when women who were infertile had two options: adoption or nursing an empty womb. There have certainly always been women who did not desire to mother, but for those who were involuntarily infertile, the inability to conceive created terrible pain. IVF has brought the joy of motherhood to millions of women and we have come to see this as a scientific good without questioning what — if any — limitations should be imposed on this process.
Women’s advocates argue for female autonomy and the right of women to control their own bodies; however, in the case of IVF treatment, women are not the only ones being affected. It is important to remember that a child is the result of a successful treatment and that he or she is going to be in a dependent situation for years to come. No one speaks for these potential children in fear that putting limitations on this procedure means putting restrictions on women’s reproductive choices.
The media is continually reporting on women who have long since passed menopause giving birth to children. In the U.S. 60-year-old Frieda Birnbaum gave birth to twins. Professor Severino Antinori became the U.K’s oldest mother when she became pregnant at the age of 62. When the public began to question her pregnancy, Severino responded by saying, “it’s not my physical age that’s important – it’s how I feel inside.”
At the age of 66, Maria del Carmen Bousada gave birth to twin boys and died before the children had reached their third birthday. She had assumed that because her mother had lived well into her twilight years, the same would be true of her.
In India, Mrs Bhateri Devi, at the age of 66, became the oldest woman to give birth to triplets weighing 2lb 6oz, 2lb 4oz and 1lb 7oz respectively. Mrs. Bhateri says, “I did this because people used to mock us.” One child has since died. Since the birth of Mrs. Bhateri Devi’s children, 72-year-old Raji, who is the mother of an 18-month-old child, has reported that she believes she is dying from complications due to her labour and delivery. When asked what made her want to have a child, she responded:
“I would have wanted a child even if I were a 100 years old. Seeing others with their children made me want one to.”