Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist and researcher, teamed with Robert Edwards, a physiologist, in the development of the basic research that led to the discovery of in vitro fertilization. It was only after many failed attempts that Louise was finally born. It is interesting to note that Steptoe financed the research by performing abortions. It may sound odd to you that a doctor who wanted to help women have babies paid for the research by killing babies, but this is exactly what occurred.
An interesting excerpt from the classic Pro Life Encyclopedia tells us the following about Dr. Steptoe’s philosophy, which may account for his involvement in both aborting and generating children:
Dr. Patrick Steptoe, one of the originators of the [in vitro fertilization] technique, recently denied that he was destroying human lives because, in his opinion, only "a potential life has been started when an egg is fertilized. The mortal part of life has been joined with the immortal part: by that I mean the genetic material. We are all merely transient carriers of our genes, I'm afraid; it is our genes that are immortal, definitely."
In other words, the thought process behind the science does not take into account that a human being exists at the moment of creation but rather that a group of cells is an entity that potentially can become a human being. So it is really not that surprising that one man could be accommodating to both ending and attempting to begin pregnancies.
At any rate, since Steptoe and Edwards, much has happened in the world of IVF and the most recent news comes to us from the Medelle Corporation, which is currently testing a device known as INVOcell™, described as "low cost IVF." The news report explains :
The INVOcell™ intra-vaginal culture device, an approximately two-inch long barrel-shaped cylinder filled with culture medium, is currently being used in the clinical study to test the invention’s effectiveness as a replacement for IVF lab culturing. The woman’s eggs and the father’s sperm are first placed into the device. Then, the INVOcell™ is inserted into the patient’s uterus and secured using a retention system as opposed to leaving them in a Petri dish in the fertility clinic laboratory.
The idea is that by sidestepping the laboratory the potential client could save a few thousand dollars so that the IVF cycle would cost $7,000 rather than the usual $10,000. However, the device is still in the early testing stages and so the possibility lower-cost IVF remains a mere idea without clinical results to attest to its effectiveness or safety.
The larger question in these discussions about reproductive technology is whether or not they are ethical in the first place. The Catholic Church resoundingly tells us no, they are not. In case you are thinking, “Isn’t that a heartless way of looking at treatments that do help some infertile couples realize their dream of having a child?” let me help you see the wisdom in Church teaching.
The sad fact is that sterility is a source of immense suffering for a couple, but no couple has a right to a child. And it is very clear that every child has a right to be conceived according to God’s design of procreation.
As Catholic teaching makes clear in the document, Instruction on respect for human life:
In conformity with the traditional doctrine relating to the goods of marriage and the dignity of the person, the Church remains opposed from the moral point of view to homologous 'in vitro' fertilization. Such fertilization is in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo. Although the manner in which human conception is achieved with IVF and ET cannot be approved, every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love. [emphasis added]
The Church recognizes each human embryo as a child deserving of love, not a life in a freezer or a life ended for the sake of stem cells. But the Church also alerts us to the gruesome outcome of technologies that are designed to replace God with man’s interventions, whether it is to create or to destroy a human being.
Thus it is with great anguish that I look at the latest invention, the INVOcell™ device, which is to be placed within the womb of a woman so that her body heat will help the device incubate the resulting zygote, and I shudder. I continue to be horrified for the children whose lives have become nothing more than consumer goods that are destined to be saved or trashed, depending on their quality, of course. I wonder how much longer the Lord can have patience with a world that has so little regard for His design.
And I ask you: What are you doing to expose these grotesque practices hiding behind glowing descriptions of help for couples in need?