“Ask a Priest: What If My Friend Is Thinking of IVF?”

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Q: I have a friend who’s been trying to get pregnant, but maybe due to her age – she’s 47 years old – it is difficult for her to conceive naturally. My question is, would it be sinful for the couple to consider an IVF treatment? – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: To attempt in vitro fertilization or undergo it is objectively gravely sinful, for several reasons (pardon the bluntness here).

First, it usually involves the husband’s masturbating in order to obtain the seed.

Second, it separates the act of conception from the marital act of natural intercourse. Children have a right to be conceived through an act of love between their parents, not by the flick of a wrist of a lab technician uniting seed and ovum.

Third — and this is the most serious moral problem — IVF almost always involves the production of “spare” embryos, some of which might be discarded later (for “not being good enough”) or left frozen in a lab. It basically amounts to the destruction of innocent human lives, or leaves tiny human beings suspended in a frozen state, an absurd fate.

Your friend needs to understand that children are a gift of God. No one has a right to a child. A child isn’t a product to be obtained at will.

Pope St. John Paul II warned of the extremes that can affect attitudes about children. In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), No. 23, he writes:

Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child “at all costs,” and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents. [end quoted material]

For further reading, these Vatican documents might help:

— Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day

— Dignitas Personae: On Certain Bioethical Questions

A past Ask a Priest question is worth noting, too: https://rcspirituality.org/ask_a_priest/ask-a-priest-will-i-ever-get-to-be-with-siblings-who-died-during-ivf/

The couple might want to contact a NaProTechnology specialist to get an ethically sound perspective on fertility treatment.

The spouses need to be encouraged to intensify their prayer life and to accept their situation if they cannot conceive. They might also be encouraged to think about adoption.

Please pray for this couple. Life and death issues are at stake.

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