by Dr. Linda Powell, Ph.D.
The Catholic position on techniques for assisting fertility is that they are morally permissible if they respect: “the right to life and the physical integrity of every human being;” the unity of the marriage;” and the “specifically human values of sexuality.”
For the purpose of this review, we are going to focus on
- In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos
- Freezing embryos
- The reduction of embryos
- Pre-implantation diagnosis
In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos
Even in the most technically advanced centers of artificial fertilization, the number of embryos sacrificed is extremely high; above 80%. First of all, in vitro embryos which have defects are directly discarded. Some are transferred and some are frozen. And the technique where many are transferred even when only one child is wanted is a purely utilitarian treatment of the embryos.
The centers and the couples blithely accept the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization which vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure leads to a “weakening of the respect owed to every human being.” Remember that God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant and the child or the young person, or the adult or the elderly person, because “He sees an impression of His own image and likeness.”
“Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos.” They are exposed to the serious risk of death or physical harm, since a high percentage does not survive the process of freezing and thawing. They are placed in a situation where they are denied maternal reception and gestation and where they are susceptible to further offense and manipulation. The Catholic Church recognizes that the “thousands of frozen embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.”
The reduction of embryos
The transfer of multiple embryos into the mother’s womb causes a significant increase in the frequency of multiples. This situation gives rise to so-called embryo reduction in which some of the embryos are directly exterminated. Embryo reduction is an intentional selective abortion. “It is the deliberate and direct elimination of one or more innocent human beings in the initial phase of their existence. . .”
This is done in order to ensure that only embryos free from defects; those of the proper sex; and those with other desirable qualities are transferred to the womb after in vitro. Pre-implantation diagnosis has no other goal except to destroy “defective” embryos. It is an act of abortion and is gravely immoral. “By treating the human embryo as mere ‘laboratory material,’ the concept itself of human dignity is also subjected to alteration and discrimination. Such discrimination is also immoral and must be considered legally unacceptable.” (emphasis added.)
To read the whole instruction: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/CDF-Dignitas-Personae.pdf