By Judie Brown
With just a single sentence, we are immediately in touch with man’s absolute disdain for the human person. The sentence reads: “A couple aborted a healthy preborn baby at six months after learning that the fertility clinic had given them someone else’s embryo.”
What surprises us is not that the employees of a fertility clinic allegedly made the mistake but that an innocent baby died as a result. The decision to kill the six-month-old child sounds like something a couple might do if the car they bought turned out to be a lemon. Instead, they chose to kill a baby because they believed he was a “mistake”!
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
This tragedy occurred because of a fertility clinic mishap, but what this story is really about is the heartbreaking result of human frailty. When couples learn that they will not be able to procreate naturally, the resulting actions can lead to misery and death. Rather than choosing to adopt or simply accept the sad reality, many couples today make the choice of seeking other avenues such as the fertility clinic discussed here.
The Vatican document Donum Vitae addresses the perils of such choices, teaching that sterility (infertility) presents a difficult trial for a couple, adding: “Spouses who find themselves in this sad situation are called to find in it an opportunity for sharing in a particular way in the Lord’s Cross, the source of spiritual fruitfulness. Sterile couples must not forget that ‘even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.’”
In other words, accepting the difficult fact of sterility can be a source of blessing. But in today’s culture, human beings don’t find sacrifice and acceptance easy. As a result, the choices they do make create suffering and even death, as was made clear in the report cited above. Rather than accepting the child as their own despite the fertility clinic error, the couple chose death for an innocent baby. Perhaps they never considered the inherent value of the child they condemned to death.
If only someone had reminded them of the fact that the dignity of the human person transcends human desire and design. This truth is underscored in this excerpt from Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of the Human Person):
By virtue of the simple fact of existing, every human being must be fully respected. The introduction of discrimination with regard to human dignity based on biological, psychological, or educational development, or based on health-related criteria, must be excluded. At every stage of his existence, man, created in the image and likeness of God, reflects “the face of his Only-begotten Son. . . . This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration – intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is always a good, for it “is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory” (Evangelium Vitae).
Returning to the situation cited at the beginning of this article, we reread the following words with great sadness: “A couple aborted a healthy preborn baby at six months after learning that the fertility clinic had given them someone else’s embryo.”
The very real truth that God permitted this healthy baby to be created in His image and likeness is lost in the story. It is replaced with the ghoulish decision to kill. And so once again we are reminded that whenever man loses sight of God, tragedy occurs.
Fertility is a gift, not a commodity. The resulting children are a blessing, not a curse. Every individual from his biological beginning is “a manifestation of God in the world.”