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
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
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,
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
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,
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