And now, a simple tale of one doctor’s attempt to build a fertility clinic, nearly thwarted by politics this week.
Naperville, Illinois is a suburb about 45 minutes west of Chicago and is home to just over 140,000 people. The median age of Naperville residents sits right around 34 years old. It’s a largely white community, with its next largest population being Asian, only about 13%. Unemployment is a little lower here in Naperville compared to the rest of Illinois. It’s a town with fairly low crime compared to the US average for crime rates.
Naperville is, by all accounts, just another suburb in the middle of America: just outside a major metropolis and home to a small liberal arts college with about 2,000 students on campus.
It is here that Dr. Randy Morris, an award-winning board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist, seeks to build a fertility clinic.
It’s here in Naperville that Dr. Morris wants to build families.
If only it were that simple.
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It wasn’t the use of the land, or even parking regulations that held up Dr. Morris. His plans were on the up and up with the zoning board. In February, the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission gave him the green light on zoning. Oddly enough, it wasn’t all the technical logistics and specs that go into getting any new brick and mortar facility approved.
It was what Dr. Morris was planning to do in those walls that had some residents concerned.
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From the layperson’s view, a fertility clinic is going to offer some basic services, many of which you or I have used at some point.
We get bloodwork done, so there might be a collection lab on site. Some clinics can do surgical procedures on site, like that hysteroscopy I keep putting off. There’s the standard waiting room and reception desk area. Consultation rooms. Those damn stirrups. *shudder*
We get IUIs performed and collect semen samples and have pelvic exams. And if the clinic is advanced enough, maybe they’re even retrieving, storing, freezing and thawing embryos on site.
To be honest, it’s nothing short of miracles that go on in the walls of most fertility clinics. It’s where science and faith – that is, faith in the science – come together in this amazing technological dance to actually help infertile couples conceive.
Pause on that for a minute. It’s pretty damn profound.
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Here’s where it gets ridiculous.
All Dr. Morris needed was the approval from Naperville’s City Council. An easy hurdle, presumably. He had all the zoning and other paperwork and approvals in order. It should have been a hit right outta the park.
That is, until folks with a personhood agenda showed up to the City Council meeting.
They argued that the disposition or destruction of embryos constituted a moral issue that the City Council should consider. They were honestly pulling the “won’t someone think of the children?!” card… and they meant it in reference to the embryos on site at Dr. Morris’s proposed clinic. Those who opposed the clinic also thought that it would take advantage of the local college by recruiting egg donors.
This got some members of the City Council concerned then, about the possibility of protesters congregating outside the facility.
Picture this for a minute.
Pro-life personhood protesters. Outside of a fertility clinic. That’s trying to build families.
It’s one thing to live in a day and age where Roe v. Wade is still legal last time I checked and have pro-life (anti-choice) protestors in front of your local Planned Parenthood. I get that. That is logical. It might be right or appropriate, but score 1 for pro-lifers when it comes to logic.
This, on the other hand, makes no fucking sense. Pro-life protesters outside of your local fertility clinic? You’ve got to be kidding me.
“Because one small and noisy group has a religious view that IVF is immoral and sinful, they take issue with the fact that this sinful place would be located several blocks away from churches, schools and children’s museums,” Dr. Morris said to reporters.
But I’m not kidding and this was a real and valid concern for the Naperville City Council.
Public commentary on both sides of the issue ramped up, with former infertility patients coming out in droves to support Dr. Morris while personhood supports set their sites on Dr. Morris’s clinic.
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Tuesday night, Dr. Morris’s proposed clinic went up for a vote before the City Council. There was much heated public testimony both in support of and opposing this clinic.
In the end, the City Council voted 7-2 in favor of the Naperville Family Building Center.
Not the Naperville Fertility Center, as originally planned. The name change was a compromise to appease those most opposed to all that heathen-y science happening in their own backyard.
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Naperville could be any town like yours or mine.
And yet, this is the kind of climate we’ve come to, folks. One where we can’t even get a state-of-the-art fertility clinic built in our own towns because “won’t someone think of the children?!” – the embryos, that is.
Cryopreservation is nothing short of an art. The decision on what to do with excess embryos is deeply personal and unique to each couple. The work that is done by fertility doctors, nurses and their staff is at once humbling and astounding.
All of this care and craft and love that goes into starting your family, when combined with the amazingness of fertility science – it really is nothing short of a miracle.
And the folks who support personhood don’t like it one bit.
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Dr. Morris’s Naperville Family Building Center is a cautionary tale not just for infertility professionals, but for each and every one of us as patients.
There are those who believe on very political grounds that we don’t actually have the right to build our own families, even though they support “choosing life.”
Folks, we need to wake up and start fighting back for our rights to be parents.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how we get there, that’s all we’re trying to do is to become parents, right?
If the personhood movement had it their way, we wouldn’t.