Catholic Views on Treating Infertility

INTRODUCTION

Infertility has been a growing problem all around the world today. In the past years, there has been a big interest in developing new reproductive technologies and methods to help those who struggle with the issue of infertility. However, the Catholic Church has found issues with some of these methods and has deemed many as immoral, which has been causing some controversy in the past few year. Through this project, I want to learn for myself and educate others on why certain methods are declared as immoral in the Catholic Church and why some are declared as moral in the Catholic Church. Even though there has been a significant increase in developing new methods recently, does not mean the struggle of infertility is a new issue in the world today. In fact, infertility issues date back to the very beginning. As many people may not know, scripture is actually filled with women who suffered from infertility. For example, In the Old testament Elhanan’s wife Hannah struggled with infertility but eventually gave birth to the prophet Samuel, and Sarah the wife of Abraham struggled to conceive but eventually gave birth to Isaac. The Bible teaches us that there are limits on methods that are acceptable when trying to become pregnant. In 1987, there was a document written called Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life) that talked about the morality of modern fertility methods. The Donum Vitae does not judge the use of reproductive technology as wrong, but it does talk about how some methods are moral while other methods of conceiving are immoral. This document teaches us that if a medical procedure is used because a person needs a little extra help to conceive and can not do it on their own then it is considered be moral in the eyes of the catholic church, but if the procedure completely replaces the marital act of sex to conceive a child then is it categorized as immoral. The Catholic Church wants everyone to experience this joyous act but they do not want it to be replaced by reproductive technologies. Children should be a gift from God not a gift from technology. Some people may wonder why the Catholic Church is so against certain methods. Through doing much research, I have found that it is simply because they want to protect women and children from any harm that certain methods can cause. So in this project, I will discuss methods like In Vitro Fertilization, Artificial Insemination, Surrogacy, LTOT, and Gift and will talk about why the catholic believes these methods are immoral or moral.

IN VITRO FERTILIZATION

In Vitro fertilization is probably the most popular method for couples to turn to when struggling with Infertility but it is very expensive and does not always work. IVF is a reproductive technology method where a sample of a woman’s eggs is taken out of a woman’s uterus and a sperm sample is taken from the male. Once this step is done, the sperm and egg samples are then combined in a laboratory dish. The embryo made from this combination of egg and sperm is then injected into to the woman’s uterus, and each cycle of IVF takes about two weeks. The Church views IVF as an immoral method. Now I found this method a little bit difficult to understand why it was declared as immoral in the Catholic Church because it is helping people that struggle to conceive have a baby, which sounds like a wonderful thing. Through research I found that it is because this procedure completely eliminates the marital act of sex that should take place in order to get pregnant. This procedure is basically just the making of a baby in a lab dish. There is no act of love in this method like the Church says there should be. The Church not only classifies this method as immoral because of the total replacement of the act but also because of some steps taken within the method. The process involves several embryos but only the ones that show the greatest chance of survival will be used and injected into the mother’s womb. The ones that remain are thrown away or used in other experiments. This is categorized as harming and killing a perfectly good life. Another factor that contributes to categorizing this method as immoral is fetal reduction (or selective reduction), which is occasionally used during the In Vitro Fertilization project. During this method, Doctors will monitor the babies in the womb to see if they have any issues or defects. If the doctor sees any defects the baby will be categorized as unhealthy and will then be removed (the baby is killed). This is a great violence against human life and is a major reason why this method is declared as immoral. The last factor that contributes to this method being immoral is when couples use donors for eggs and sperm. This is surprisingly not an uncommon option. This method could create complications later on in the child’s life. For example, the child could be confused when he or she learns that one parent (mom or dad) is not biologically related to him or her. Lastly, this method could also result in the child marrying a half sibling because they may not know who their biological parent is. Although this issue is very odd and unlikely it is still possible.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION

Artificial Insemination is another technique used to help those who struggle with infertility. It is known as one of the more simple procedures that have shown to have fewer side effects than other infertility methods. A couple is most likely to be recommended this method if the women has a condition called endometriosis or if the cervix is blocking sperm from getting into the uterus and fallopian tubes. If the male is the reason for infertility, it is usually because the male has a very low sperm count or because the sperm are too weak to swim through the women’s cervix and up into the fallopian tubes. If these issues are found in either the parents or just one of the parents, or if an issue cannot be determined, then a doctor is most likely to recommend this method of Artificial Insemination. During Artificial Insemination a sample of semen from the male is taken and injected directly into the woman’s uterus. Just like any procedure this method may not work and there are some risk factors that can come along with this method. When choosing this method, there is a greater chance of conceiving more than one baby (possibly triplets or twins and maybe more), and being pregnant with more than one baby increases the chance of the mother having complications throughout pregnancy and at birth. After the baby has been born there is a chance that OHSS could occur. OHSS is the shortened term for Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, which occurs in women who have too much hormone medications in their system. This leads to the swelling of ovaries in women and is usually very painful. Like In Vitro Fertilization, this procedure completely takes over the marital act of having sex to get pregnant. That is one of the main reasons why the Catholic Church classifies Artificial Insemination as immoral. During this procedure it is strictly just reproductive technology, which is not how a child should be made. When classifying Artificial Insemination as immoral, the Church also takes into consideration the increased chance of the mother or the child being in danger. Although this infertility method may be considered as one of the more simpler methods, it can still cause complications in the mother or baby and that it the last thing the Catholic Church wants

SURROGACY

Another immoral method of fertilization in the Catholic Church is Surrogacy. Surrogacy in simple terms is when another person carries a baby for someone else. It is often a legal agreement, where you pay a woman to become pregnant, carry your child till it is due, and then when the baby is born it is immediately handed over to the parents. When finding a surrogate it is greatly advised to go through an agency in order to make sure that the surrogate is a healthy and legal option. The act of surrogacy takes a special type of person because not just anyone could or would want to do it. The surrogate is doing a selfless act of giving up her body for 9 months so that another person can experience the amazing triumph of having a baby and family. Although the act of surrogacy is amazing and selfless, it is still considered to be immoral in the Catholic Church. While researching this method I honestly struggled to understand why it was immoral because I did not see anything wrong with someone giving up his or her body just to bring another person joy. To me, I saw surrogacy as a wonderful and selfless Christian act. The reason why the Catholic Church categorizes this method as immoral is because it fully takes away the marital of having sex to conceive a child. This method is much like IVF because fertilization of sperm and egg is created in a laboratory dish, but instead of being inserted into someone within the marriage it is inserted into someone outside of the marriage, which is looked at as very immoral in the Catholic Church. This method just like any other infertility technique comes with some risk factors, and these factors help contribute to the reason why surrogacy is categorized as immoral because it increases the chance of the baby and surrogates life being at harm. The child’s attachment to their mother in the womb could possibly not transfer over to the mother receiving the baby, which can cause both issues for the baby and the mother receiving the baby. This could cause mental issues like depression in the mother receiving the baby. There can also be risks medically because of the In Vitro Fertilization stage (page 4) at the beginning of this method. This stage can increase the possibility of having more than one baby, the chance of it being born premature, and increases the baby’s chance of being born at a very low birth rate, as well as some other problems that can put the surrogates life and the baby’s life at risk.

MORAL INFERTILITY METHODS

Although many infertility methods are categorized as immoral in the Catholic Church, there are some methods and inventions that are considered to be moral when trying to have a baby. When procedures like IVF are not an option for one reason or another, couples can turn to procedures like LTOT and GIFT. LTOT (Lower Tubule Ovum Transfer) is a procedure done by surgery and is used to help overcome a tubule blockage. In women, there can become a tubal blockage in the fallopian tubes that result in blocking eggs from entering the uterus. During this procedure, the wife’s eggs are transferred pass the blockage so that hopefully when the couple comes together in the marital act of sex it can hopefully result in pregnancy. When researching LTOT I found that it has not been used as much recently because of its very low success rates. Another moral way that has much higher success results is called GIFT (Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer) this method is more on the controversial side. Many people are unaware that this method has a higher success rate then IVF. GIFT in a way is like IVF except, the fertilization of sperm and egg is done inside the fallopian tube instead of a dish in a lab. This procedure is done after the male and female have sex an soon after this marital act occurs a sample of the male’s sperm and the woman’s eggs are taken. The issue with this procedure is that it is not an option for everyone. In order to pursue this option a women must have at least one healthy fallopian tube. With out a healthy fallopian tube this procedure will not work. If a woman or male is not a candidate for any of these options then there are some other options that are considered to be moral. These options include taking fertility drugs (a bit more on the risky side), and also having surgery to open up any blockages in the male or female reproductive system. Some may think surgery would be considered immoral but as long as it is not replacing the marital act and is just giving the patient a little help than it can be considered moral.

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT INFERTILITY

The Bible is a perfect place to turn to when struggling with the issue of infertility. Struggling with Infertility is more common than one may think, more than 5 million people struggle to have baby. Like stated earlier, infertility issues date back to many years ago and these situations are talked about in the Bible to show and educate people on how they are not alone and miracles do happen but one must have faith. When dealing with the stress of infertility or really anything in life it may be easy to give up faith, turn away from God, and blame him for what is happening. In reality, one should do the exact opposite because children are a gift from God. Down below I have found some Bible verses that a person can turn to when needing a little hope and strength to show them that there is light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Deuteronomy 8:2

2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1 Samuel 2:21

21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 7:14

14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young.

Genesis 1:28

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 25:21

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

BIBLE VERSES CONTINUED…

Romans 12:12

12 are joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Psalm 127:3

3 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Mark 11:24

24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that it is granted to you, and you will get it.

Psalm 113: 9

9 He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!

James 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Works Cited

  1. “WHAT DOES THE CHURCH TEACH ABOUT IVF?” The End Times and Last Things | Catholics Come Home, www.catholicscomehome.org/what-does-the-church-teach-about-ivf/.
  2. “20+ Encouraging Bible Verses about Infertility – Powerful Scripture.” Edited by BibleStudyTools, Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-infertility/.
  3. Morse, Jennifer Roback. “Why Everyone Should Oppose Surrogacy.” Catholic World Report, 4 June 2016, www.catholicworldreport.com/2016/06/04/why-everyone-should-oppose-surrogacy/.
  4. “Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/using-surrogate-mother.
  5. “Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT).” American Pregnancy Association, 10 Sept. 2018, americanpregnancy.org/infertility/gamete-intrafallopian-transfer/.
  6. “| Circle Surrogacy.” Circle Surrogacy, Full Service, Worldwide Surrogate-Parenting Agency, www.circlesurrogacy.com/about/what-is-surrogacy.
  7. Mauer, Elena Donovan. “How Much Fertility Treatments Cost.” What Is a Lactation Consultant?, The Bump, 19 Aug. 2014, www.thebump.com/a/how-much-fertility-treatments-cost.
  8. “Quick Facts About Infertility.” Reproductive Facts, www.reproductivefacts.org/faqs/quick-facts-about-infertility/.
  9. “Overview.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/infertility-reproduction-overview_facts.
  10. Tangerine & Vanilla. “Fertility Treatment Options.” Parents, Parents, www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/infertility/treatments/guide-to-fertility-methods/.
  11. “Infertility.” Womenshealth.gov, 30 Aug. 2018, www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/infertility.
  12. “Begotten Not Made: A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology.” Current State Laws Against Human Embryo Research, www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/reproductive-technology/begotten-not-made-a-catholic-view-of-reproductive-technology.cfm.
  13. Mayo Clinic Staff. “In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-fertilization/about/pac-20384716.
  14. Connelly, Srephen. “Is IVF Immoral in the Eyes of the Catholic Church?” Get Your Daily Bread Together With The Catholic Faith Store, 4 Mar. 2018, www.catholicfaithstore.com/daily-bread/is-ivf-immoral-in-the-eyes-of-the-catholic-church/.
  15. Schmalz, Valerie. “A Moral Alternative to Treating Infertility.” Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing Company, OSV Newsweekly, 20 Jan. 2010, www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Story/TabId/2672/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/521/A-moral-alternative-to-treating-infertility.aspx.
  16. “Journal of Fertilization: In Vitro – IVF-Worldwide, Reproductive Medicine, Genetics & Stem Cell Biology Open Access.” OMICS International, OMICS International, www.omicsonline.org/fertilization-in-vitro.php.
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