Jeevan Jal Ministries
  Pro-Life Ministry

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNIQUES

Pro-abortionists and others who do not understand the Pro-Life position, often take the label "Pro-Life" at face value. They believe Pro-Lifers advocate generating as many people as possible, by any available means. So, these people say, it follows that Pro-Lifers should favour any method of producing babies for infertile couples, no matter how it is done.

This viewpoint grossly oversimplifies the Pro-Life position and completely disregards the inherent dignity of human life. Of all people, Pro-Life activists can empathize with the yearning for a child that an infertile couple experiences. People who know infertile couples wish that they could somehow miraculously present them with the infant they long for. This kind of response is commendable, but unfortunately it defines children as a "right" and intrinsically and unconsciously reduces their status from a supreme "gift of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) to an acquisition or a possession. Donum Vitae explains that the child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership, rather a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents, and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception. Some of the assisted techniques of reproduction are as follows:

1. Artificial Insemination (AI)

AI is the most basic assisted reproductive technique. The sperm donor typically masturbates to collect sperm, which is then introduced into the woman's vagina by a catheter.
AI is usually classified as AI-H (Artificial Insemination: Husband or "Homologous Insemination") or AI-D (Artificial Insemination: Donor or "Heterologous Insemination").The AI-H cuts the unitive purpose of the marital act and only upholds the pro-creative aspect.

The marital act, in its natural setting, is a personal action. It is the simultaneous and direct co-operation of husband and wife which, by the very nature of the agents and the inherent quality of the act, is the expression of mutual giving. This is much more than the union of two life cells, which can be brought about even artificially. The marital act in the order of and by nature's design, consists of a personal co-operation which the husband and wife exchange as a right when they marry.

AI in marriage produced with the active element of a third person is equally immoral. Only marriage safeguards the married couple's dignity. The child conceived through AI outside the married state would be, by the very fact, illegitimate.

2. Invitro Fertilisation (IVF)

Invitro (literally, "in glass") Fertilization (IVF) is the beginning of a new human being outside the mother's body. This involves retrieving eggs and sperm from the bodies of the male and female partners and placing them together in a petri dish. If the egg is fertilized, it is monitored for proper growth. At the 3rd or 4th day, the doctor inserts the embryo into the woman's uterus with a catheter or tube which he passes through the cervix.

The chances of a single transplanted embryo surviving the entire IVF process are quite slim. The donor woman routinely receives fertility drugs to make her produce several eggs during ovulation (a process known as "super ovulation"). Multiple eggs are fertilized and transferred to the uterus, although the probability of pregnancy as per invitro cycle is only 10% - 15%. Embryos that appear to be defective in anyway are simply discarded as biological waste. If a woman becomes pregnant with multiple embryos (i.e. if all or most of the embryos manage to implant in the uterus), an abortionist often commits a "pregnancy reduction", a fancy name for selective abortion. The unwanted children are killed with a shot of potassium chloride to the heart and they are simply absorbed by the mother's body.

3. Embryo Transfer (ET)

The standard embryo transfer procedure involves impregnating a volunteer (or paid) woman by artificial insemination with sperm from an infertile wife's husband. Five days after conception, the embryo is flushed out and transferred to the infertile woman's uterus. The embryo may also be the result of IVF. Sometimes an embryo that is conceived by AI-D is removed and transferred into another woman. "Surrogate motherhood" usually involves the artificial insemination of a woman with a husband's sperm, if his wife is infertile or does not want to carry a pregnancy to term for a variety of reasons. This practice is sometimes called "Rent a womb." A contract between the surrogate and the husband and wife is made that the surrogate abort the child, if genetic tests show abnormalities. Therefore, the baby in question is merely a property under contract.

Reproductive technologies divide motherhood and fatherhood into further smaller pieces. In ET procedure, a child has at least two mothers and one father, and may have up to three mothers and two fathers; a genetic mother, a gestational mother, an adoptive mother, a genetic father and an adoptive father.

4. Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Doctors incise (a small cut) the Fallopian tube at a point past any blockage and, using a laparoscope, remove the woman's ripe egg from the follicle, and place it and the man's sperm inside the tube past the blockage (the sperms are collected from the wife's vagina after a normal intercourse). If conception does occur, pregnancy will proceed in the usual way, the embryo will travel down the tube and implant in the uterus.

At this, the Catholic Church and most Bible-believing Protestant churches have not voiced objections to GIFT, because it does not involve sins such as masturbation to obtain the sperm or the discarding of "excess" embryos. GIFT has 20% to 30% success rate, compared to IVF's 5% to 15% overall success.

5. Low Tube Ovum Transfer (LTOT)

LTOT is also acceptable to the Catholic Church and many other faiths. This procedure relocates the woman's egg past the damaged portion of her Fallopian tube so that invivo (in the body) fertilization takes place after normal intercourse.

The problem is not purely theoretical, as can be seen in the following case. Antonio Hernandez, a Chilean, had made his fortune in copper. He had a son, Juan, from a first marriage. He took Conchita as his second wife. He wanted children, but since they came up against some problem that was unsolvable in Chile, they bought a ticket for Melbourne. The doctors removed some ova from Conchita; a carefully selected sperm donor was summoned with all due discretion, and invitro fertilization took place. The successfully created embryos were frozen. But then before the implantation procedure could be arranged, Antonio and Conchita died in an airplane accident. Questions presented themselves without delay. What was to be done with the frozen embryos? Let them die? Implant them? In whom? What would be the rights of the "surrogate" over the child? And then who would inherit Antonio's fortune? Juan? The child or children born of surrogacy?

The problem became even more complex since a medical professional's indiscretion, perhaps deliberate, revealed that Antonio was not the biological father of the embryos. Who was to decide, and by what right, the future of the frozen embryos? Juan? A judge? The State? The doctors? In this case, money forced these pointed questions into the limelight, questions that otherwise would have been buried in thick silence.

These questions are truly of capital importance, for, biologically speaking, it is an established fact that the fertilized egg is an individual in the precise sense of this term. The combination of the gametes, each already a bearer of an original rearrangement of the genetic patrimony of the parents (the result of meiosis) is the point of departure of a new biological individual. It is from this moment on that the zygote has a genetic identity card unlike any other. Individuation, then, occurs prior to nesting, which will allow the fertilized egg to attach to the uterine wall and there find all its needs to develop. The fact of individuation is solidly established at the scientific level, so much so that it is as indisputable as the circulation of blood. There simply is no other biological criterion that allows us to fix the beginning of a human being at another moment.

Today, it is possible to call a human being into existence who will not come to know either his father, or mother, or even his surrogate. An ova removed by suction from donor A, can be fertilized invitro by the sperm of donor B and then be implanted in the uterus of surrogate C. A child born under these conditions might not know the identity of A, B or C. He would be, from the very beginning, a human being deprived of all kinship. Now, the most spontaneous and elementary way to ascertain anyone's identity is to determine his filiation. This is even the source of many patronymics: Janseens, Johnson, etc. But in this case, the human being would be an individual without reference to anybody. He would be diverted at the outset of all interpersonal relationships. Thrust into existence, absolutely alone and without protection, he would be exposed to the denial or legal recognition; no one would have to answer for him, and he himself would be responsible to no one. He would be at the mercy of the technician who brought him into existence, at the mercy of that technician's boss.

How to Determine Whether a Procedure is Licit ?

There are currently more than 100 different assisted reproductive techniques available to couples who are suffering from infertility. Couples may be unsure whether the procedure(s) they are considering are morally acceptable.

According to the Vatican instruction Donum Vitae, the licity of assisted reproductive procedures revolves around their relationship to natural intercourse. If the technical means facilitates the conjugal act or helps its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable. If on the other hand, the procedure were to replace the conjugal act, it is morally illicit (H, B, 6)

Donum Vitae states that an assisted reproductive procedure must meet the following five specific criteria in order to maintain the procreative and unitive aspects of the marital act, as well as to avoid other grave sins:

All assisted reproductive procedures should be performed upon married couples only. "Respect for the unity of marriage and for conjugal fidelity demands that the child be conceived in marriage; the bond existing between husband and wife accords the spouses, in an objective and inalienable manner, the exclusive right to become father and mother solely through each other " (II, A,2).

The wife must contribute the egg and the husband must contribute the sperm. No other person must be involved, as this constitutes "technological adultery." Recourse to the gametes of a third person, in order to have sperm or ovum available, constitutes a violation of the reciprocal commitment of the spouses and a grave lack in regard to the essential property of marriage which is its unity (II, A, 2).

Masturbation must not be required. "Masturbation, through which the sperm is normally obtained, is another sign of this dissociation. Even when it is done for the purpose of procreation, the act remains deprived of its unitive meaning …" (II, B, 6). See also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2352. Note that sperm collection can licitly be accomplished through "home collection," which consists of the use of a perforated condom during natural intercourse.

Fertilization must take place inside the woman's body. "The origin of the human being thus follows from a procreation that is 'linked to the union, not only biological but also spiritual, of the parents, made one by the bond of marriage.' Fertilization achieved outside the bodies of the couple remains by this very fact deprived of the meanings and the values which are expressed in the language of the body in the union of human persons" (II, B, 4,c).

"Spare" embryos must not be discarded, frozen, or experimented upon, and procedures such as "selective abortion" (pregnancy reduction) must not be used. "… those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called 'spare' are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued" (1,5).

 

 

 


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