By John-Henry Westen
“It is to be hoped that Costa Rica does not violate the rights of the unborn with laws that legitimise in vitro fertilisation or abortion,” said Pope Benedict XVI [on 3 December] in remarks to the new Costa Rican ambassador to the Vatican.
Although it is seldom heard in North America, the Catholic Church opposes in vitro fertilization. I remember years ago while at the DC March for Life speaking to Chicago Cardinal Francis George about the lack of teaching from pulpits on the matter. He admitted frankly that the bishops had “dropped the ball” on the teaching against IVF.
That failure has come back to haunt us in the form of embryonic stem cell research, which is a direct consequence of the spread of IVF since the embryos used for the in vitro procedure are mostly those “left over” embryos from IVF procedures.
But the science on the matter is so far removed from the general public that it is difficult to process IVF as a wrong. From the outside it looks miraculous and even pro-life—a childless couple goes for help to science and is able to have a child of their own.
In order to illustrate the inherent dangers to life with IVF, I came up with an analogy which has assisted many to understand what is at stake.
Imagine a building with an open window in which stands a childless infertile couple hoping for a baby. Across a laneway is another building, on the roof of which is a scientist with 20 babies, looking adorable in their diapers and smiles.
In an attempt to get the infertile couple a child the scientist throws babies, four at a time, across the laneway toward the open window. Unfortunately on the first toss they all miss and fall to their deaths. But there are many more babies left over to try again. Another four are thrown toward the window and one makes it in, the other three falling to their deaths.
Hooray! The childless couple has a child. A miracle, not of God, but of science!
The analogy has many similarities to the actual IVF procedure.
By combining ova from a woman and sperm from a man in a lab, scientists performing IVF routinely create 20 embryonic children for a couple under IVF treatment. Most of those children will never be born alive, nor are they meant to be.
The doctor will then implant embryos, sometimes four at a time, in the hopes that one of the embryos will implant in the mother’s womb and survive till birth. If the first batch, or cycle, doesn’t take, they try again.
released last month by those involved with IVF indicates that in the best scenario only 7.5% of embryonic children created via IVF survive till birth.
With over one million babies having been born by IVF, the numbers of deaths due to the procedure are staggering—in the tens of millions.
Interestingly however, the Catholic Church objects to IVF for more than this unbelievable disrespect for human life and dignity of the embryonic child.
The same Catholic Church that is often referred to as “anti-sex” by the “get your rosaries off my ovaries crowd,” in fact so values sex or the “marital act” that it insists on this ingredient for moral procreation.
As Pope Benedict put it in a 2008 talk
on the subject, “The two fundamental criteria for moral discernment in this field are: unconditional respect for the human being as a person, from conception to natural death; and respect for the origin of the transmission of human life through the acts of the spouses.”
But what of that childless couple? Is there no hope for them to have children beyond perhaps adoption? Well yes, there is. While some childless couples are beyond the reach of help for achieving natural birth (many are unable to be helped by IVF), there are natural means which are more successful in treating infertility than artificial procreation via IVF and related methods.
Natural Procreation Technology
(NaPro Technology) has a better success rate in treating infertile couples and keeps intact the marital act. In addition to charting fertile times, it screens for and treats hormonal imbalances at the root of most infertility problems.
NaPro Technology though is little known. So the next time you hear of a friend considering IVF, let them know about this natural, more successful and pro-life alternative.
John-Henry Westen is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the first life and family issues news service operating on the internet—LifeSiteNews.com. A father of seven children, Westen is an international speaker and sits on the executive board of Canada’s March for Life Committee, the National Pro-Life Youth Conference and the pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition. He has run three times for political office and holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Psychology. He can be reached at "> .