Assisted reproductive technology (ART) usually means the set of techniques that make procreation possible apart from the natural process of conjugal union between a man and a woman. ART uses sperm cells from a man and egg cells from a woman. There are two principal techniques of ART: artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the embryonic transfer.
The natural, ethical, and soundly medical approach to Fertility:
FertilityCare combines natural fertility awareness with a medical treatment program (NaProTechnology) to help people reach full procreative health. This can be used successfully by:
- Married couples having difficulties achieving a pregnancy
- Married couples who have experienced miscarriages or ectopic pregnancy
- Women wishing to care for their own gynaecological health, including those with problems such as Pre Menstrual Syndrome, irregular cycles, unusual bleeding, polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, postnatal depression and other conditions.
- Couples wanting to learn about their fertility and plan their families
In Vitro Fertilisation Techniques
IVF with donated gametes
Some countries’ laws specify that ART must always be carried out with the gametes of at least one prospective parent. In cases in which neither one can provide a gamete (for example, no sperm production and troubles with ovulation), those laws permit the couple to call on an outside donor in order to obtain either sperm or ova.
The Issue with harvesting a woman’s Ova
The harvesting of a woman’s ova is possibly life-threatening and certainly has the potential to maim the donor physically or even extinguish the donor’s prospects of fertility.
Article: Is Egg Harvesting Really Good for Women?
IVF with donated gametes
IVF with a “surrogate mother” “Surrogate mothers” are women who are willing to “rent their wombs” when the woman seeking ART is not able to carry a pregnancy to term. The “surrogate mother” carries and brings into the world the couple’s child after it has been conceived by IVF and transferred into her uterus. At birth she turns the child over to the couple, usually for payment. Sometimes the “surrogate mother” becomes pregnant by artificial insemination with the father’s sperm; in this case she is also the biological mother of the child.
The Issue with Surrogate Motherhood
The commodification of the mother
Of course, there are cases where a woman becomes a surrogate purely to help a couple who couldn’t otherwise conceive and bring to term a healthy child. Conversely, there are many cases where a woman needs money and enters into surrogacy for monetary reasons. However, even if a woman is willing to carry the burden, the act of bearing another couple’s child denies the importance of the gestational process of a mother bonding with her child in the womb. It removes the loving act of intercourse from the creation of new life, and forces a parting of the child–who grows “under her heart”.
The commodification of the child
For the child, we can see two basic outcomes as well. There are cases of abandoned or aborted children for a variety of reasons, and there are cases of healthy, thriving children. In both cases, it seems today that the most common source of surrogacy is IVF. This method is also not approved by Catholic moral teaching for the reason mentioned above: in IVF the act of conception is removed from the marital act. Moreover, it makes the child a commodity because the successful embryo is usually selected from a group of embryos on account of certain attractive characteristics that it has; the remaining embryos are either discarded, frozen, or used in research. As a former embryo, that is challenging to think about. Nowadays, toward the goal of ranking the best embryos and eliminating the poor and the lame, steps are taken by both fertility clinics and paying customers. Read the first article cited above (from The New York Times) to see this trend toward keeping only “the pick of the litter.”
No matter the good intentions of those who engage in surrogacy, the process itself industrializes human reproduction. There is a slippery slope argument that could be made, but in this case, the action has already gone too far. The artificial production of a child is an extreme form of consumerism that should not be taken lightly. Nevertheless, it should go without saying that, despite the moral problems with surrogacy, children conceived through such means are endowed by God with the dignity of all human persons, and they should be treated as such.
There is no “right to a child”
Lastly, even though infertility is unimaginably difficult for affected couples, no one is owed the life of another person. The desire to have a child is one of the most basic and beautiful realities there are. But a child is a gift, and nature does not like to be coerced. It is surprising that in this age of returning to nature, especially in the area of food and animals, the general public does not seem to be concerned with the synthetic ways that human beings treat their own bodies and the bodies of their children.
IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ISCI) consists of introducing the sperm cell selected by the technician directly into the ovum. This technique was first used to compensate for the infertility of the father.
The Issue of transmitting genetic anomalies
It runs the risk of transmitting to the child the genetic anomalies responsible for the father’s infertility. Since the success rate of intracytoplasmic sperm injection is better than that of classic IVF, it was used in more than 63% of attempts at IVF in 2008, even when the father did not suffer from infertility. (See Pierre Jouannet, “Peut-on réduire le risque de grossesse multiple après fécondation in vitro?” Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire, June 14, 2001.)