Former First Lady Michelle Obama told ABC in an interview that will air tonight that Sasha and Malia were created through IVF. According to Obama, she and former President Barack Obama chose IVF after a miscarriage.
As I wrote at CatholicVote, the Obamas made what is becoming a popular choice for many couples facing fertility challenges. Infertility is often a real physical, emotional, and spiritual struggle, just as it was for the Obamas. Helping couples and individuals through this time of difficulty requires an open ear, a compassionate heart — and opposition to IVF on the basis that the end good of a loved child can never overcome the inherent wrongs in the IVF process.
First: morality and compassion for people considering IVF
As with any delicate balance of helping someone through a serious challenge that has objective moral components, outsiders must have a compassionate and loving approach that is guided by a strong moral foundation.
This is difficult when trying to help family or friends with strong desires for children who cannot have them. Many people find opposition to IVF personally offensive – both because of their fertility struggles and the presence of child(ren) they may have through IVF.
Respecting and understanding this reaction without patronizing or lecturing is important. But just as love for same-sex couples doesn’t include supporting their immoral relationship choices, and the joy of a new child doesn’t justify sexual intercourse outside of marriage, nor can proper support for struggling couples ever include support for IVF.
Despite its popularity, IVF is morally wrong. It’s important that Americans – especially those who claim the pro-life mantle – understand why.
Objective moral reasons to oppose IVF
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that IVF is “morally unacceptable” as it “dissociate[s] the sexual act from the procreative act.” Drawing upon the 1987 document Donum Vitae, it further explains:
The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.” (CCC, 2377)
An important fact about IVF is that it denies unborn children their humanity – despite the love with which many IVF-created children receive. Babies which are not used for impregnation are not provided a loving home, but are rather frozen, donated for research, or killed. This is the vast majority of embryos.
For pro-life advocates, IVF’s causal link to abortion should lead to opposition. IVF has resulted in the deaths of millions of unborn children. Between 1991 and 2012, 1.4 million IVF-created babies were killed in Britain alone.
Just as with any embryo, a child created through IVF is a unique human beings deserving of as much legal protection as every other person – born or unborn. Yet those who aren’t killed are still treated like commodities through being frozen or donated to charity.
IVF is also the beginning of the slippery slope to eugenics, where babies with “undesirable” characteristics are not given the same love as “acceptable” children. We’ve seen this with Down Syndrome babies, 90 percent of whom are aborted because of their disability. How much is it for embryos when one out of 10 or more is desired, and the rest are not?
Surviving children face separate challenges.
Even children who survive the IVF process – which is no guarantee, as miscarriages are about as common with IVF-created children as for pregnancies created naturally – may be scarred from the experience. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains, the separation of the child from the union of sexual intercourse can create health challenges.
For example, while studies are mixed, some research shows significant physical and mental health issues for IVF-created children. And just as sometimes happens with adopted children or kids raised by single parents, confusion may result from the uncertainty inherent in not being raised by both biological parents.
Additionally, even if there are no IVF-related health issues, an IVF-created child may be left in the proverbial lurch if he or she runs into health challenges without knowing their full genetic history.
Supporters of IVF might point to adoption and say that some of these same challenges exist for those children. That’s true. But adoption is an effort to make the best of tough situations for the sake of the child and – in many cases – the birth parents of said child. Conversely, IVF creates the tough circumstances for the child, using immoral means to achieve a worthwhile end.
Growing the size of government
A number of U.S. states require IVF insurance coverage, and Australia and Britain subsidize it. As IVF continues to grow in popularity and use, it is obvious that governments will continue to use public dollars to support it – or require private companies to cover it. (In 2001, the World Health Organization endorsed public programs incorporating infertility treatments.)
This is especially true when it comes to the LGBT agenda of creating new rights out of thin air. Professor Robert Oscar Lopez, a self-described “ex-gay” who is now married with four children, was the first person to make me aware of the chattel nature of IVF. Lopez condemned IVF on its own (lack of) merits, but especially because he believes it creates a market environment for helpless children…for the sakes of those who are in inherently sterile relationships.
But in today’s politically correct world, IVF must be supported to create “equal” rights for same-sex couples, right? That’s what Maryland lawmakers decided in 2015 when they expanded a previous mandate for IVF coverage for straight couples to same-sex couples.
Acceptance is really the key
The blunt truth is that the strong desires for bearing and raising children cannot come before the morality of the process which gets someone there. Immoral means can never be used for a good end. This means acceptance may be the only answer for many people – and a tough answer it is.
The good thing is that there are great examples of couples and individuals who have overcome infertility. The Bible is full of people who accepted this challenge in life. Evangelical author Chelsea Patterson Sobolik discusses acceptance in her 2018 book Longing for Motherhood. And many couples have chosen adoption as a way to bring to fruition their love in a different way than they had originally anticipated.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!