The medical community touts in vitro fertilization as something great, something amazing. But it omits the fact that this procedure is not victimless. Neither is it moral or ethical. Today’s commentary explores the words of Pope John Paul II and the Church and explains what every Catholic should know.
In vitro fertilization is one of many procedures listed as a specialty in the field of reproductive medicine. Everything from treating pregnancy to aborting children to birth control to treating infertility is included.
“Infertility” is the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy the natural way. It is this condition that first generated the interest and scientific study pursued by the fathers of IVF, Doctors Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. After some failure, the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born. The front page of her hometown newspaper, The Evening News, carried this headline: “Meet Louise, the World’s First Test-Tube Arrival . . . SUPERBABE.”
The Edwards/Steptoe backstory is certainly worth reading, but what has happened since the birth of Louise Brown is, in the opinion of many including the Catholic Church, neither wholesome nor ethical. The fruits of the IVF tree are in many ways diabolical and call into question the wisdom of ever venturing forth into the field of creating persons in test tubes in the first place.
To put it plainly, nine years after the birth of Brown when the church warned of what was to come, men and women of integrity should have taken heed and ceased their manipulation of humanity. The document Donum Vitae states:
Thanks to the progress of the biological and medical sciences, man has at his disposal ever more effective therapeutic resources; but he can also acquire new powers, with unforeseeable consequences, over human life at its very beginning and in its first stages. Various procedures now make it possible to intervene not only in order to assist but also to dominate the processes of procreation. These techniques can enable man to “take in hand his own destiny,” but they also expose him “to the temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature.” They might constitute progress in the service of man, but they also involve serious risks.
That “temptation to go beyond the limits of a reasonable dominion over nature,” as Pope John Paul II enunciated it in 1987, have been repeatedly exceeded.
Today’s headlines give a smattering of evidence indicating the chasm that has come to exist between the laws of nature and man’s desire to be god. They also lead us to consider the possibility that even early on IVF was a very bad idea.
Consider these headlines: “Twins Born to Surrogate ‘Must Have Links to Genetic Parents Protected.’” This report fails to explain to the reader that in point of fact the “genetic parent” of the second of identical twins is the first twin—not the original mother and father. Add to this the fact that, in a case like this, there is the possibility that the egg and the sperm that were used to generate the twins were both donated by anonymous individuals.
A second headline reads “Synthetic Gametes Could Enable Homosexuals to Have Children.” Such a report is reminiscent of the debates on human cloning. In fact, if such a practice were to be carried out, human cloning is what it would be, as Professor Dianne Irving pointed out with copious references 10 years ago.
But no collection of modern day horror stories would be complete without this headline: “Judge Rules that Kansan Who Provided Sperm to Lesbian Couple Owes Child Support.” The man who donated the sperm claimed that he waived his parental rights at the time he donated the sperm, because he did not want to be a father. Say what? Then why did he donate his sperm, knowing it would lead to the creation of his own child?
It is painfully apparent that reproductive technology today is in the vicinity of shear madness. Pope John Paul II said it best, “The positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them.”