Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Vatican on A.R.T.

…human life is a gift from God that has been entrusted to men and women, who are called to appreciate its inestimable value and take responsibility for maintaining its dignity — with regard both to the human being called into existence and to the special nature of the transmission of human life. Because of the dignity both of the child and of the parents, the document declares that in vitro fertilization, whether used by a married couple or by unmarried individuals, is always wrong. The good and natural desire of parents struggling to conceive a child of their own, which the instruction praises, does not give them a right to one by any means whatsoever.

A new human being is not an object or a piece of property that adults have a right to manufacture, manipulate or destroy, but rather a personal subject biologically distinct from both father and mother whose dignity and individual rights must be respected and safeguarded. A child is a gift, not a thing. A child has the right to be begotten, not made, or as the document says, to be "conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage, [because] it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development." The child, in other words, should be conceived as the fruit of the personal union and love of parents committed to each other for life, not fabricated by anonymous medical technicians earning a payday.

In vitro fertilization likewise violates the dignity of parents, by renting asunder the connection between love-making and life-making. A child is no longer the fruit of their personal bodily union, but merely the fusion of their gametes, separated from their bodies, washed, and paired by technicians on a lab bench. The wife is no longer impregnated by her husband during an act of love in the peaceful and romantic solitude of their bedroom, but by a doctor injecting her with a pipette in a hospital room surrounded by strangers with masks over their mouths, as her husband stands to the side. This image alone is enough to bear witness that the process is not worthy of human dignity and interpersonal love.

But the in vitro procedure brings with it other affronts to the intrinsic worth of both children and parents. In a typical process, about eight to ten eggs are fertilized. A whole large family of fraternal twins, in other words, is brought into existence. These brothers and sisters are allowed to grow for a couple of days in a laboratory, then some of them are selected to be injected into the mother. The other children are either frozen in liquid nitrogen to preserve them for future in vitro attempts or they are left to die or be destroyed. Therefore the cost of having a child through in vitro is measured not only in the tens of thousands of dollars that a couple needs to pay, but in the death or cryopreservation of most of the parents' children and the implanted child's siblings. Again, the image itself is enough to convince most people that the process is not commensurate with human dignity.

The whole practice, moreover, is open to abuses contrary to the intrinsic worth of both children and parents. Egomaniacal doctors have substituted their sperm in place of the father's and have genetically sired scores of half-siblings through unsuspecting mothers. Single women in their late sixties are using IVF to conceive children whom the actuarial tables indicate they'll leave orphans before high school graduation or maybe even before kindergarten. Children whose fathers were anonymous sperm donors are now coming of age and are seeking to know who their dads are, or what medical conditions they may have inherited; at present, however, they have no rights to this information, because the entire in vitro industry and the legislation that protects it are set up to satisfy adult desires, without concern for what is best for the child. [Also true of adoption!] And last but not least: IVF makes it possible for a child to grow up to discover that he or she has an anonymous egg donor for a biological mom, an anonymous sperm donor for a genetic dad, a surrogate mom as birth mother, and then a "father" and a "mother" who paid the other three for their services. These multiple layers of relations are creating not just a legal mess but a psychological one for such children.


"Heterologous artificial fertilization violates the rights of the child; it deprives him of his filial relationship with his parental origins and can hinder the maturing of his personal identity.

"Furthermore, it offends the common vocation... of the spouses who are called to fatherhood and motherhood: it objectively deprives conjugal fruitfulness of its unity and integrity; it brings about and manifests a rupture between genetic parenthood, gestational parenthood and responsibility for upbringing.

"Such damage to the personal relationships within the family has repercussions on civil society: what threatens the unity and stability of the family is a source of dissension, disorder and injustice in the whole of social life."

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