Why Not IVF?

What is IVF?

IVF involves the removal of a number of ova from a woman and their subsequent fertilisation with sperm in a petri dish (hence the name in vitro, which means 'in glass'). If a fertilised ova grows normally, he or she can be placed into the womb on the 3rd day following conception. If an embryo implants in the uterus, he or she can eventually be born normally. In IVF many ova are fertilised, producing new human beings, but most of them are usually discarded.

What is wrong with IVF?

The suffering caused by infertility is a terrible cross for anyone to carry. All IVF babies should be entitled to the same love and respect as any child conceived naturally. But Jesus, through the Church He founded, teaches that the transmission of human life is good only through natural sexual intercourse. IVF gives doctors and laboratory technicians an unnatural power of which they have no right. Far more embryos are created in IVF than ever come to be born. 9 OUT OF 10 BABIES HAVE SO FAR DIED (De Stoop, Contraception " The Hidden Truth). Doctors choose which embryo is to be born and which embryos are to be denied birth. No one has the authority to pick and choose human beings. The creation of human life is the exclusive domain of God the Creator and not fallible scientists no matter how well-meaning they may be. No one has the right to play God. In the case of IVF, humans are playing God.

Surely everyone has a right to a child?

Children are a gift; they are not a right. If a couple cannot achieve pregnancy naturally then God's will for them is to carry a cross that means no children of their own, except for the possibility of adoption. For some, this infertility (sometimes caused by Sexually Transmissible Diseases, contraception or abortion) becomes intolerable and so recourse to IVF is sought. Only infertile couples themselves know the extreme suffering childlessness brings, but solving their infertility with IVF is contrary to God's will (CCC 2373-2379).

What's the official word from the Catholic Church on IVF?

The Church in Donum Vitae (1987) teaches that the conception of life in the laboratory and transfer of the new life to the womb of the mother is 'illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo' (part II, B5). So, sexual intercourse between spouses should be open to life (procreative) in such a way that it involves no immoral practices and, AT THE SAME TIME, it should involve 100% mutual self-donation exclusivelybetween spouses (unitive).

Almost everyone accepts IVF has benefited humanity.

Approval of IVF opens up a horrible future of immoral reproductive technologies including: cloning, surrogacy, gene screens, baby farming, genetic manipulation of human gametes with animals and embryonic stem cell research. If IVF is acceptable, then this frighteningly immoral Brave New World also becomes acceptable and human embryos become expendable. Human life begins at conception. ALL human embryos are REAL PEOPLE. British IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston has admitted dangers in the IVF process: embryo freezing may alter the behaviour of a gene that suppresses tumours & ovary-stimulating drugs could trigger chromosomal abnormalities (The Record, 18/9/03).

The Catholic teaching on IVF is insulting to children born of IVF.

The Catholic Church loves IVF babies and their parents. Whilst the Church condemns certain means of procreation it supports all moral attempts at protecting all unborn human lives no matter how they might have been conceived. An understandable reaction from infertile couples is to insist that any children they might have from IVF would not care one iota whether or not they were created from the natural, procreative and fully unitive embrace of their parents; for a child born of IVF the fact that they are in existence at all is enough to justify the use of IVF. However, the Church teaches that good ends (the birth of a child) do not justify immoral means (IVF). The fruit of IVF (in addition to many dead brothers and sisters) is a new human being who is entitled to the same love as any of God's other children, but the morally wrong means employed to bring that child into existence can never be condoned by the true Church of Jesus Christ. For example, the despicable crime of rape is an unjustifiable means by which a new human being can be conceived. However, the child born of rape is to be loved no differently than any other of God's children, but the rape that brought the child into existence must be condemned. The fact that rape can conceive a child does not mean that it is morally licit. The same basic principle applies in the case of IVF.

The Catholic Church offers infertile couples no alternative.

Many couples who conceive through IVF often conceive naturally at a later date. Rather than engage in an immoral practice couples are called by the Church to consider the ever-improving and highly successful NATURAL AND MORAL methods of achieving pregnancy such as: the Billings Ovulation Method, the Sympto-Thermal Method, or Napro-Technology.

Many couples conceived naturally only because they first achieved pregnancy from IVF.

There's no scientific evidence for this claim. (Bishop A. Fisher, 2/2/04, author of IVF-the critical issues, 1989.)

IVF couples could not have conceived any other way.

Many IVF couples don't try natural methods of treating infertility first. Simple medical treatments, the huge stress factor involved & healthy living habits are often overlooked. Support for IVF in the medical profession has largely eclipsed the genuine success rate of natural methods that are in many cases more successful than IVF. Many infertile couples now no longer have to consider the immorality or the cost (financial and emotional) of the invasive IVF process, or the fact that IVF drugs increase the risk of ovarian cancer (Wilks, 1997, chap 8, A Consumer's Guide to the Pill and Other Drugs), or the long-term effects of the powerful hormones it uses.

Surely the love of the couple and the birth of their child through IVF is not wrong?

God does not only see the love of the couple and the birth of their beautiful child, He sees the other 9 dead brothers and sisters too. He sees the long-term societal effects of acceptance of IVF. In short, God sees the big picture and we never can (until we die). The doctors and scientists who have invented and developed IVF are creating their own horrifying world; a world that includes the VISIBLE deep love of IVF couples and their beautiful new-born children, and, at the same time, the INVISIBLE vast majority of dead, discarded, exploited and abused children. Literally thousands of expendable human beings are now locked in a netherworld in which they will never see the light of day. IVF opened the door. Just because we are capable of doing something through advances in technology does not mean that we should do them. This utilitarian notion is driving the modern-day eugenics movement where real children are selected, or most often discarded, as a direct result of our acceptance of IVF. Opposing embryonic stem cell research on moral grounds is impossible if IVF is accepted.

Christ would welcome an IVF baby because he said, "let the children come" (Lk 18:16).

Christ came that we could have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). Our Lord was talking about ALL of us. Christ wants ALL children, who are destined naturally to come to Him, to be able to do so. IVF has created a situation where most of the children it creates are excluded from ever being able to live the full life that God intended for His children.

What about the millions of babies who naturally miscarry?

Since Original Sin we are no longer living in paradise. Through the Devil's envy and the fall of our first parents sin has entered our world and through sin death has become a reality (Rom 5:12). A natural miscarriage is a tragedy but it is not immoral. However, IVF is immoral because what happens in nature, what the Creator allows, cannot be compared to the deaths IVF has caused through arbitrary human intervention.

What about the GIFT that doesn't require masturbation or the loss of 'excess' embryos?

Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer is an attempt at human reproduction which is an example of a procedure that medical technology has developed that goes beyond IVF. The sheer pace of advances in reproductive technologies means that the Church requires time to judge their morality. In the meantime, one form of GIFT is regarded by some moral theologians as morally permissible, until such times as the Church makes a final pronouncement on it, but other moral theologians believe that GIFT contravenes the principles laid down in Donum Vitae.

An embryo is simply a lump of cells.

That lump of cells will become a talking, walking, loving lump of cells if you let him or her grow and allow him or her to be born. What is conceived is human. Every human person is a lump of cells. A person asleep is a lump of cells whose consciousness has been suspended. But a sleeping person is entitled to the same basic rights as those people who are awake. No-one is justified in killing someone because they are sleeping. Likewise, a human person in the earliest stages of his or her development ought to be entitled to the same right to life as anyone else.

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.