Skip to comments.Couples Ask: What?s Wrong With In-vitro Fertilization?
Posted on 08/11/2004 6:34:48 AM PDT by NYer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Catholic teaching has called in-vitro fertilization techniques immoral for decades. But most Catholics still havent heard the news.
California attorneys Anthony and Stephanie Epolite found out the hard way that in-vitro fertilization wasnt all its cracked up to be. After years of marriage, and facing her 39th birthday still without a baby, Stephanie turned to a fertility clinic.
Two years and $25,000 later, the couple had nothing but frustration and embarrassment to show for the time spent on in-vitro fertilization (in-vitro fertilization).
"We were emotionally, financially and spiritually spent," Stephanie Epolite said. "The clinic did no diagnostic tests. They loaded me up with fertility medication and determined the right time for retrieval of my eggs."
But, after the retrieval and the mixing of the eggs with Anthonys sperm in the laboratory, still no embryo developed. "In the end, they told me I just had old eggs," Stephanie said.
She wishes she had known at the beginning what she has since learned: The Catholic Church forbids fertility techniques that try to make babies outside of marital intercourse. "There is no education out there about the alternatives," she said, "so Catholics are flocking to the fertility clinics."
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects more than 6 million American women and their spouses, or about 10% of the reproductive-age population. About 5% of infertile couples use in-vitro fertilization.
As to how many Catholic couples are among them, figures are hard to come by. But many Catholics seem unaware of the immorality of the procedure.
"Anecdotally, from our consultation experience here, Catholics using reproductive technologies are generally unaware of the Churchs moral teaching in this area," said Dr. Peter Cataldo, director of research with the Boston-based National Catholic Bioethics Center. "Theyre not hearing it from the pulpit or elsewhere."
In her teaching on human reproduction, the Church seeks to safeguard human dignity. God wants life "to be the result of an act of love by those committed to loving each other," philosophy professor Janet Smith has written. Anything that assists the conjugal act achieve its purpose of procreation is licit; anything that substitutes for it is not.
In No. 2377, the Catechism explains why the Church opposes methods that separate marital love-making from baby-making.
"They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. 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. Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses union."
In successful in-vitro fertilization, a human life comes into existence outside the conjugal act and outside the womb. Conception is the result of a technicians manipulation of "reproductive materials." The process for the collection of sperm often necessitates masturbation, which is itself immoral.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, explained that the Church teaches that the procedure is immoral for several reasons. "It undermines the meaning of sex. It violates the exclusivity of the couples marriage covenant," Father Pacholczyk said. "It says that it is okay to manufacture life in a laboratory as if it were a commodity, when it should be the result of human love."
"Theres also the ancillary evil of freezing embryonic humans that are later abandoned or poured down the sink if they are not useful," he added.
In addition, Father Pacholczyk noted that babies created through in-vitro fertilization have an elevated risk of birth defects.
"Studies have shown a sixfold elevated risk for in-vitro fertilization children contracting an eye disease called retinal blastoma versus normally conceived babies," he said. "In-vitro fertilization is very unnatural. Youre extracting ova from the woman, culturing them and inspecting the developing embryo in a laboratory setting. They are in a completely unnatural environment for a very long time before they are put back into the womb.
"Commercial interests offer in-vitro fertilization as standard practice," Father Pacholczyk said. "The Catholic Church is the only voice opposed to it."
But there are morally acceptable alternatives to in-vitro fertilization, and Dr. Thomas Hilgers is trying to let more Catholic couples know that.
In response to Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VIs 1968 encyclical reaffirming the Churchs opposition to contraception, Hilgers devoted his life to the study of human reproduction, developing the Creighton Model System of Natural Family Planning and eventually opening the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction.
In 1991, Hilgers coined the term NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology), a reproductive and gynecologic medical science that seeks to evaluate and treat a host of womens health problems without the use of contraception, sterilization, abortion or artificial reproductive technologies, thereby making it consistent with Church teachings.
NaProTechnology first identifies the causes of infertility and then seeks to treat them. Thats not always the case at fertility clinics.
"The aim of most fertility clinics is to skip over the abnormality to try to get women pregnant," Hilgers said. "Yet when you skip over the causes, you end up dealing with them one way or another.
"Its ludicrous to promote in-vitro fertilization as the help for the vast majority of 6.62 million with impaired fertility," he said. "When you listen to the national news and morning television shows, you think that in-vitro fertilization is the only thing available to infertile couples, yet less than 0.5% of infertile couples in the U.S. are helped by in-vitro fertilization each year."
Catholic theologians and ethicists would agree that NaProTechnology is morally acceptable, Cataldo said.
Cataldo pointed out that "certain drug therapies and egg-stimulating medications at doses that dont have disproportionate risks for the children engendered or for the mother" also are acceptable. But other technologies, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) fall into a "gray area."
"Some moral theologians and ethicists see these techniques as assisting the conjugal act. Others see it as replacing it," he said. "Until such time as the Vatican speaks, Catholics contemplating the use of IUI or GIFT should inform themselves of both sides of the moral and theological argument and then make a decision in good conscience."
Regardless of the artificial method chosen, the cost of such techniques remains high and the success rates low. According to the 2001 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates report compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a survey of 384 fertility clinics showed a clinical pregnancy success rate of 32%.
In a 1990 article published in Social Justice Review, then-associate director of the U.S. Catholic bishops Pro-Life Secretariat Richard Doerflinger noted that a survey of in-vitro fertilization clinics discovered that half of the clinics had never had a live birth after being in business at least three years, collectively treating more than 600 women and collecting $2.5 million for their services.
"Those with the extraordinary emotions that engulf infertile couples are extremely vulnerable," Hilgers said. "They are easy prey."
Not only do natural and morally acceptable alternatives such as NaProTechnology cost far less, but they also are more successful. The Pope Paul VI Institute boasts success rates ranging from 38% to 80%, depending upon the condition being treated.
Following the Epolites experience with in-vitro fertilization, Stephanie learned about the Pope Paul VI Institute from a Natural Family Planning counselor. In the fall of 2000, the couple applied to the institute, gathered charts they had kept that outlined vital signs related to fertility, and underwent diagnostic testing.
As it turned out, both had reproductive issues that their previous fertility clinic had never diagnosed. Anthonys sperm count was low, and Stephanie suffered from endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes.
Six months later, following treatment of their conditions at the Pope Paul VI Institute and at the age of 42, Stephanie conceived naturally. Their daughter, Claire Marie, was born Oct. 31, 2002.
"At the Pope Paul VI Institute, we saw compassion, concern, help and love," Stephanie said. "They provided individualized treatment, versus the empty feeling that we felt from the fertility clinic. Whereas the fertility clinic bypasses all the laws of nature, the Pope Paul VI Institute works with the laws of nature."
Catholic Ping - let me know if you want on/off this list
Early promiscuity leading to an abortion or clamydia = 25-50% drop in fertility.
Complete college = 22.
Get advanced degree = 25.
Start career = 30.
Meet hubby, get settled = 35.
The result? Two kids, max, and a society on the wane. My wife works in an in-vitro clinic and sees it all the time.
Never mind who raises those kids with mommy too busy and too dependent upon that second income to do that job. This is why I home school my girls to have completed two years of college in two majors by the time they are 18.
I can never quite figure out why couples feel the need to have "their own" baby in circumstances like the Epolites when there are so many children in need of adoption.
Thanks for the ping! Good article.
I suggest avoiding abbreviation, especially of the source, when forming the thread. When people are scanning thread headers, The National Catholic Register is 1000 times more information than NCR.
Does your wife see the couple doing in vitro as evil? I doubt it. The Church can have a position on this but certainly doesn't need to put out a bunch of selective statistics and propaganda.
I see the absolute good that in vitro can produce every single day. Anyone that calls that evil is an a**hole.
Interesting article. I don't know that I've ever seen this issue addressed before. I believe that the ethical arguments against in-vitro left out the most important one. The sin for which Satan was cast out of Heaven was "usurping God's authority." In-vitro fertilization comes very close to that in my opinion (of course that is just my opinion). My son and his wife had to seek help after more than two years of trying, but it was the "enhancement" help with a drug. Result: a beautiful grandaughter for me. A gift from God.
Ahh - so it is all the Catholic Church's fault that they did not follow the teachings of the church and got burned?
Let's say you do not believe in G_D at all ... go back and review everything that is forbidden to to in the Old Testament where in comes to food, living conditions, etc.
You will find a 100% safe and healthy way of life. The bans on certain goods protected the people from different parasites (shellfish & pork) for example and other potentially fatal diseases. The rules on life - no homosexuality protected them from the scourge facing them today (AIDS, and all the other self-caused diseases) - rules on marriages, spousal support, children, you name it - the Bible's teachings were there and they were followed back then on faith - today you can follow it and proveable through science!
So to the ACLU, liberals, leftists, and yes, even libertarians can follow the teachings of the Christian Bible and not feel "religious" if that really bothers them. They will live a much healthiers and happier life being moral and clean.
Reminds me of our experiences at the Vanderbilt fertility clinic in Nashville - no diagnosis, just an indication of when to show up, big check in hand.
After many months of increasing frustration, we simply quit, enormously disatisfied with the lack of either results or explanations.
And for my part, I hated their attitude toward me, the male part of the equation, who they treated almost like a bystander, more like a necessary evil than someone trying to start a family.
I found their attitudes at best callous, and often downright humiliating.
May God help you all. What a sad state of affairs and misrepresentation of the IVF process. I'm currently in my home office, with the product of two successful IVF procedures stomping around outside with our adopted daughter. My wife is a successful software consultant who left work to stay home with the kids. She had health issues in traditional conception that prevented us from conceiving without IVF.
The point the Catholic church and the rest of you miss is that the process of eggs not implanting is natural and occurs in every woman engaged in conjugal conception. We did not do a "reduction", nor did we freeze any eggs. All eggs were implanted in each case. The actual success rate for IVF in these circumstances is much higher than the article states. I'm pro-life, but my wife left the Catholic church over this issue.
Now, those who oppose IVF and cherish life so dearly, what would you have me do with my children?
Such a statement begs the question, how many adopted children do you have?
How about implanting every fertilized egg? Does that qualify as a plan?
Why would you characterize them as "astoundingly selfish"?
Working in my own home office right now...same stomping going on here as well, although only one.
I couldn't agree more with your statements. The misrepresentation in this article is the worst part. What a bunch of crap.
Medical issues on our end as well...
What is selfish about IVF? I just need to understand what is selfish about it? We implanted all of our embryos, and more than half fertilized.
Since you ask--one. I was thirty six and in vitro was offered to us also, but we felt that, perhaps, God had another plan for us. Six months later we became very happy parents of our adopted som.
>>This is why I home school my girls to have completed two years of college in two majors by the time they are 18.
Even taking every AP test that is offered (which I pretty much did in high school, I skipped music theory and a couple of other BS subjects) you won't get two years of college credit in two different majors, unless they are BS majors like liberal arts. I technically had over 75 hours of credit starting college (more than two years worth) from AP, but most of those don't help me any in my engineering degree. I will be able to make it out in three years thanks to AP, but had I followed my original plan and double majored in physics, it would have taken four.
Homeschooling is nice and everything, but there is just no way a parent can teach college level physics or engineering as well as a good professor can (unless that parent is a physicist or engineer themself, but then I seriously doubt they would be staying at home). Also, you have alot of years unaccounted for in your little time table. If you get an advanced degree at 25, which is about the right age, then you will start your career at 26, unless you are an idiot. And many people meet and get married in grad school, so your age of 35 for marriage makes no sense.
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