Letter to Representatives: End IVF and Surrogacy

July 17, 2014

Dear {Governor Kasich},

I have been horrified to read about the heartless way our society treats some children, enabled and facilitated by new technologies.  Especially saddening is the recent case of Sherri Shepherd, who ordered the creation of a child that she now says she wants nothing to do with.  (See, e.g., http://acculturated.com/the-brave-new-world-of-ivf/ )

Please do everything you can to make sure that in-vitro fertilization, surrogacy, human cloning, and other dystopian abuses of technology are illegal and will not happen in Ohio.  New technologies will come, but that doesn’t mean we have to let them be used for evil.  Not here.

I know you have been a great pro-life governor (with the exception of your support of Medicaid expansion, which is anti-life—see http://www.cincinnatirighttolife.org/2013/03/18/medicaid-expansion-funds-planned-parenthood/ ), for which thank you.  Keep up the good work.


Best regards,

3 Responses to “Letter to Representatives: End IVF and Surrogacy”

  1. Tevyeh Says:

    I’ve never really delved too deeply into the issue of IVF, so I can’t claim to have a well-developed position on the issue. Pro-natalist that I am, I’m inclined to view favorably a technology that enables otherwise infertile couples to have children. What motivates your opposition to IVF? It’s an honest question; as I said it’s not an issue I’ve had occasion to research. I’ve got to believe that you have a better argument than an isolated tragedy. (Speaking of which, I’d bet ten to one that a child born following IVF has a much, much lower probability of ending up “unwanted” than a child brought into the world the “old-fashioned” way.)

    • Sure, though if you click the link above and read about the other example there that I didn’t mention, it raises the possibility that there are other moral considerations besides whether the child is “wanted”. ( http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2013/02/dear_prudence_my_wife_and_i_came_from_the_same_sperm_donor.html , man and his wife, both presumably created by IVF, turn out to be half siblings.)

      I agree with you that argument by anecdote is not necessarily the best way to form opinions on the great questions (though apparently I think it’s a great way to try to tell my representatives that I feel strongly about the issue). The shortest abstract logical argument I would give against IVF is that the way it is (I think) invariably practiced (though in theory it could be done otherwise) involves the creation of not one but many embryos—i.e., human beings—most of which at some point in the process either die or are put in a freezer somewhere, either of which I think qualifies as “dystopian”.

      On the other hand, as I think about it, I’m not so sure telling the story of, say, Sherri Shepherd is a bad way to reason about what is right. While I assume her case is atypical of IVF customers, I think it may illustrate some of what I think is inherently wrong with surrogacy—but then, isn’t IVF open to some of the same kind of criticism as surrogacy? Children should be the result of a marriage, not a business transaction. It should not be impossible for us to say who a child’s “parents” are, whom he should turn to, and who has the responsibility of taking care of him.

      But I would be happy to rest on the abortion argument alone.

    • I am also very interested in what the church has to say on the subject.

      The Catholic Church is the first place to go to, being the largest single institution to have considered these questions (containing about half of Christendom, https://enjoymentandcontemplation.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/christians-a-plurality-worldwide-about-one-third-of-all-people/ ), as well as (I would say) being part of the church and so guided by the Holy Spirit. The short answer is that the Catholic Church has considered these questions at some length and concluded unambiguously that IVF is morally wrong. See, e.g.,

      For a longer answer, those pages direct us to the Catholic Church’s “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day”, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html . Excerpts:

      A preliminary point for the moral evaluation of such technical procedures is constituted by the consideration of the circumstances and consequences which those procedures involve in relation to the respect due the human embryo. Development of the practice of in vitro fertilization has required innumerable fertilizations and destructions of human embryos. Even today, the usual practice presupposes a hyperovulation on the part of the woman: a number of ova are withdrawn, fertilized and then cultivated in vitro for some days. Usually not all are transferred into the genital tracts of the woman; some embryos, generally called “spare “, are destroyed or frozen. On occasion, some of the implanted embryos are sacrificed for various eugenic, economic or psychological reasons. Such deliberate destruction of human beings or their utilization for different purposes to the detriment of their integrity and life is contrary to the doctrine on procured abortion already recalled. The connection between in vitro fertilization and the voluntary destruction of human embryos occurs too often. This is significant: through these procedures, with apparently contrary purposes, life and death are subjected to the decision of man, who thus sets himself up as the giver of life and death by decree. This dynamic of violence and domination may remain unnoticed by those very individuals who, in wishing to utilize this procedure, become subject to it themselves. . . .

      For human procreation has specific characteristics by virtue of the personal dignity of the parents and of the children: the procreation of a new person, whereby the man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of their fidelity. . . .


      a) The Church’s teaching on marriage and human procreation affirms the “inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman”.(38) This principle, which is based upon the nature of marriage and the intimate connection of the goods of marriage, has well-known consequences on the level of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s exalted vocation to parenthood”.(39) The same doctrine concerning the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage throws light on the moral problem of homologous artificial fertilization, since “it is never permitted to separate these different aspects to such a degree as positively to exclude either the procreative intention or the conjugal relation” (40) Contraception deliberately deprives the conjugal act of its openness to procreation and in this way brings about a voluntary dissociation of the ends of marriage. Homologous artificial fertilization, in seeking a procreation which is not the fruit of a specific act of conjugal union, objectively effects an analogous separation between the goods and the meanings of marriage. Thus, fertilization is licitly sought when it is the result of a “conjugal act which is per se suitable for the generation of children to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh”.(41) But from the moral point of view procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not desired as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say of the specific act of the spouses’ union.

      b ) The moral value of the intimate link between the goods of marriage and between the meanings of the conjugal act is based upon the unity of the human being, a unity involving body and spiritual soul. (42) Spouses mutually express their personal love in the “language of the body “, which clearly involves both “sponsal meanings” and parental ones.(43) The conjugal act by which the couple mutually express their self-gift at the same time expresses openness to the gift of life. It is an act that is inseparably corporal and spiritual. It is in their bodies and through their bodies that the spouses consummate their marriage and are able to become father and mother. In order to respect the language of their bodies and their natural generosity, the conjugal union must take place with respect for its openness to procreation; and the procreation of a person must be the fruit and the result of married love. The origin of the human being thus follows from a procreation that is “linked to the union, not only biological but also spiritual, of the parents, made one by the bond of marriage”.(44) Fertilization achieved outside the bodies of the couple remains by this very fact deprived of the meanings and the values which are expressed in the language of the body and in the union of human persons.

      c) Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person. In his unique and irrepeatable origin, the child must be respected and recognized as equal in personal dignity to those who give him life. The human person must be accepted in his parents’ act of union and love; the generation of a child must therefore be the fruit of that mutual giving (45) which is realized in the conjugal act wherein the spouses cooperate as servants and not as masters in the work of the Creator who is Love. In reality, the origin of a human person is the result of an act of giving. The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents’ love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology. No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of technical efficiency which are to be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion. The moral relevance of the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage, as well as the unity of the human being and the dignity of his origin, demand that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses. The link between procreation and the conjugal act is thus shown to be of great importance on the anthropological and moral planes, and it throws light on the positions of the Magisterium with regard to homologous artificial fertilization.


      The answer to this question is strictly dependent on the principles just mentioned. Certainly one cannot ignore the legitimate aspirations of sterile couples. For some, recourse to homologous IVF and ET appears to be the only way of fulfilling their sincere desire for a child. The question is asked whether the totality of conjugal life in such situations is not sufficient to ensure the dignity proper to human procreation. It is acknowledged that IVF and ET certainly cannot supply for the absence of sexual relations (47) and cannot be preferred to the specific acts of conjugal union, given the risks involved for the child and the difficulties of the procedure. But it is asked whether, when there is no other way of overcoming the sterility which is a source of suffering, homologous in vitro fertilization may not constitute an aid, if not a form of therapy, whereby its moral licitness could be admitted. The desire for a child – or at the very least an openness to the transmission of life – is a necessary prerequisite from the moral point of view for responsible human procreation. But this good intention is not sufficient for making a positive moral evaluation of in vitro fertilization between spouses. The process of IVF and ET must be judged in itself and cannot borrow its definitive moral quality from the totality of conjugal life of which it becomes part nor from the conjugal acts which may precede or follow it.(48)

      It has already been recalled that, in the circumstances in which it is regularly practised, IVF and ET involves the destruction of human beings, which is something contrary to the doctrine on the illicitness of abortion previously mentioned.(49) But even in a situation in which every precaution were taken to avoid the death of human embryos, homologous IVF and ET dissociates from the conjugal act the actions which are directed to human fertilization. For this reason the very nature of homologous IVF and ET also must be taken into account, even abstracting from the link with procured abortion. Homologous IVF and ET is brought about outside the bodies of the couple through actions of third parties whose competence and technical activity determine the success of the procedure. Such fertilization 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.

      Conception in vitro is the result of the technical action which presides over fertilization. Such fertilization is neither in fact achieved nor positively willed as the expression and fruit of a specific act of the conjugal union. In homologous IVF and ET, therefore, even if it is considered in the context of ‘de facto’ existing sexual relations, the generation of the human person is objectively deprived of its proper perfection: namely, that of being the result and fruit of a conjugal act in which the spouses can become “cooperators with God for giving life to a new person”.(50) These reasons enable us to understand why the act of conjugal love is considered in the teaching of the Church as the only setting worthy of human procreation. For the same reasons the so-called “simple case”, i.e. a homologous IVF and ET procedure that is free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation, remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it. Certainly, homologous IVF and ET fertilization is not marked by all that ethical negativity found in extra-conjugal procreation; the family and marriage continue to constitute the setting for the birth and upbringing of the children. Nevertheless, in conformity with the traditional doctrine relating to the goods of marriage and the dignity of the person, the Church remain 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.

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