One in six couples is said to face infertility issues. Couples incapable of conceiving on their own carry a heavy load of disappointment, confusion, anger, or even guilt. They rightly maintain a desire to bear and to raise children. Barrenness remains a cross for married couples to bear, which the Catholic Church takes seriously.
What does society say these couples should do to fulfill their desire to raise their own biological children? After all, according to the culture today, children have long been dismissed as blessings from God, and now are a fundamental right to add as an accessory to any relationship. The culture offers them In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as their answer.
IVF proponents see this technology as a means to (a) give children to adults, who cannot conceive on their own, and (b) ensure only the correct number of healthy children are born. An estimated five million people are walking around today, having been conceived through IVF.
IVF proponents wonder who could argue with this? After all, the child will be loved by adults, who cannot conceive by no fault of their own. Everyone wins, right?
A big fat NO.
THE METHOD BEHIND THE MADNESS
For those unfamiliar with the methodology of IVF, let us review. To help you understand IVF, perhaps you should first read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
The term in vitro is Latin, meaning “in glass.” It refers to where scientists cause children to be conceived.
They first give women dangerous drugs to stimulate egg production within their ovaries. The woman is then sedated while doctors extract multiple (up to 12 or so) eggs from her.
They then ask the man for his sperm. He then commits the grave sin of masturbation in order to provide an adequate supply.
The scientists often screen the eggs and the sperm for genetic defects and other undesirable traits, prior to the next step.
Inside glass dishes scientists then mix the eggs with sperm to see how many fertilizations they can cause. Once fertilization does occur, biologically, a new person is formed, complete with his or her own, unique DNA. Spiritually, upon fertilization a soul enters and a new human being is now formed.
The newly-formed persons are allowed to mature for a few days. They are then “screened” further, to determine which ones have the best chance of surviving. These embryos can be screened out based on sex, genetic abnormalities, or a host of other traits.
Those selected are then placed inside the woman’s uterus to see which ones “take” in implantation. Common IVF practice is to implant several embryos at ones, to increase the chances that at least one child survives until birth.
Those embryos who do not survive this process die. Those embryos not elected for implantation are either kept frozen for possible future implantation—by the original couple or by anyone else, or are destroyed.
WHY WOULD THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OBJECT TO IVF PRACTICES?
Paragraph 2378 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift” (emphasis added). Thus, a couple unable to conceive does face a difficult cross to bear, but does not have a right to conceive a child outside of the conjugal act (CCC 2377). Every child has an innate right to know the identity of his or her parents (CCC 2376).
In IVF the gametes (that is, the sperm and the egg) are bought and sold as products. Likewise, embryos (frozen, tiny children) can be purchased and implanted as well. The purchaser need not be married or even in a committed relationship. The purchaser need not even know the sperm and/or egg donor for this process.
IVF practitioners do not have a 100% “success” rate of conceiving children in Petri dishes and then seeing them survive an entire pregnancy in the womb. Instead, a birth occurs for roughly one-third of the embryos implanted.
IVF serves as a form of eugenics—you know, deciding someone’s value and life expectancy based on their genetic makeup, rather than their inherit worth as being made in the image of God.
IVF also introduces the immorality of surrogate mothers. Couples will sometimes pay women to serve as gestational incubators for their biological offspring. Thus, in the IVF industry, they find women to carry children in their wombs to whom they are not even biologically related.
On occasion, more children survive the Petri dish and implantation than expected. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a “selective reduction abortion” to be procured to kill one or more children in the womb. This is often done by injecting their chests with a solution that stops their beating hearts.
The IVF industry allows for children to be treated as commodities, and for women to be exploited (or should we say, eggsploited) for their body parts of child-nurturing.
But don’t take my word for it.
Here is a documentary, the first of three by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, regarding the untold painful side of the IVF industry, called Eggsploitation.
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES ABOUT IVF (DIGNITAS PERSONAE)
Pope Benedict XVI in September 2008 approved for publication an instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) (a Vatican theological office), called Dignitas Personae (the Diginity of the Human Person).
The document lays out three fundamentals that must not be broken, in treatment of infertility (in paragraph 12):
“a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death;
b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse;
c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require “that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.”
First, the CDF points out that IVF often destroys embryos—even deliberately, and so takes human life (paragraph 14). Therefore, the first rule is broken.
The CDF condemns the practice of eugenics in the screening process of IVF as violation of the first rule. (paragraph 15).
The CDF points out the irony of IVF: While a couple attempts to procreate a child, their other children are killed in the process (paragraph 15).
The very fact that a child is formed outside the womb violates the third rule (paragraphs 16-17). A third-party should never come between the sperm and the egg in order for conception to occur.
The CDF notes that thousands and thousands of embryos remain frozen in humanely at nearly every cryopreservation facility. The embryos do not always survive the freezing and thawing process (paragraph 18). These tiny babies frequently go unclaimed by their parents and often are either destroyed or experimented upon. All of these are immoral acts (paragraph 19).
“From the ethical point of view, embryo reduction is an intentional selective abortion” Dignitas Personae reads (paragraph 21), and so the first rule is broken. Also, using anonymous donors for eggs or for sperm clearly violates the second rule. Clearly, this technology has created a tremendous ethical mess.
To conclude, I think the CDF sums up the competing viewpoints on this issue best, when they write, “In fact, techniques of in vitro fertilization are accepted based on the presupposition that the individual embryo is not deserving of full respect in the presence of the competing desire for offspring which must be satisfied” (paragraph 15).
In other words, so long as the feelings of adults outweighs the worth of children, injustices like IVF, as well as abortion, and contraception will remain embedded in our culture.
As an alternative to infertile couples, adoption is encouraged (paragraph 13).
I would also suggest to couples carrying the cross of infertility to speak to doctors in the field of NaproTechnology. These doctors treat the causes of infertility by natural, and Church-approved means. They do not merely prescribe the Birth Control Pill as the solution to every woman’s gynecological issue under the sun.
NaproTechnology seeks to cure the infertility, whereas IVF intends only to work around it, at the cost of many children’s lives. Huxley was right. We have entered the Brave New World.
What do you think of IVF?
Did you know this about the IVF industry?
How do you feel about the Catholic Church not supporting IVF, but actually condemning it?
Please leave a comment here on the blog!