Monday, January 2, 2006

Response to "Anna" concerning the biology and morality of IVF

"Anna" left a post on an earlier post entitled A Consequence of Sin. Rather than the post prepared for today, I would like to highlight my response to her.

Thank you for your comments on my blog, however I would like to clear up some misunderstandings. First of all, I am very well versed in both biology and theology, which is adequately reflected in this and other posts. I always promote the teachings of the Catholic Church, whether on the topics of social justice, sexual or medical morality, liturgy or anything else. I will not compromise those teachings for the sake of any perceived medical advance or breakthrough because that is contrary to the common good, charity and social justice.

This post is meant to reflect on the harms that the IVF procedure has not only on women, but also on children conceived. You and I clearly have a different understanding of conception. While according to common medical terminology pregnancy begins only at implantation, the conception of a child occurs when the egg and sperm meet. This is a wholly different entity than his mother or father, and is wholly different than any other human being who is alive or deceased. When a child is conceived through IVF, a terrible injustice is done to the child. He or she is a human person from the very moment of the joining of the egg and the sperm, not when he or she has reached the blastocyst or embryo stage, or upon implantation in the womb of his or her mother.

Also, it is dangerous to say that because something happens naturally, then forcing it to happen is okay. Death happens naturally. I could have a heart attack tonight, or have a tree fall on my head while taking a walk in the forest. I could die at any time for any reason or no reason. That's a fact of nature. So, does that mean that someone can give me a lethal injection of formaldehyde (as happens in some euthanasia cases as well as many death penalty executions) in order to induce a heart attack? Does it mean that someone can see me sleeping under a lovely tree in the forest and cause the tree to topple over and kill me? Does it mean that people can shoot one another out of hate or inconvenience? No, it doesn't. (This is also one of the precepts of the euthanasia movement: that because death is inevitable, that causing death is okay. It's not. Please read Fr. Frank Pavone's column on this.)

The same is true of pregnancy loss. Natural miscarriage or abortion induced through surgical procedures, accident or a faulty IVF procedure, is devastating for a mother. She will suffer much grief that will go largely unnoticed by society and loved ones. These women suffer in silence and shame most of the time. If something natural is so devastating, why should these things be forced to happen through medicine or medical procedures? Just because something happens naturally, it does not give any individual permission to force it to happen, especially when we are talking about the death of another individual.

About the extracted eggs from the mother's body. While many may not be used in the IVF procedure, it is not okay that they were extracted. There are two points here. The first is that it is a great injustice that the eggs were extracted in the first place. You said that " fertilized they may not develop to embryo stage," as though this means the fertilized egg was not a human person. It was. And that person does not deserve to be created only for the sake of an experiment in whether he or she will survive long enough to be selected for implantation. Secondly, IVF demands sperm from the male, which is most often obtained through masturbation, which is a grave evil and a perversion of the sexual act.

Some groups are promoting the idea of "embryo adoption," however the Church has not yet spoken for or against this practice. It would seem proper to allow their adoption, however we must avoid the temptation to create them only for the sake of adopting them out.

For further reading, please read the Catholic Church's document "Donum Vitae."

I hope this sufficiently answers your questions. God bless you!

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