And she said, "Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD has granted me my petition which I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD." 1 Samuel 1: 26-28
The Church teaches that children are the “supreme gift of marriage" and the gift of a child is a great joy to parents.1 But more and more frequently, couples are faced with the reality of infertility. Dealing with infertility can put a real strain on marriages both internally between spouses and externally from expectations of friends and families. Advances in science and technology give some facing infertility hope to restore the couple’s ability to have children. On the other hand, other reproductive technologies create serious moral problems and undermine the “dignity of the couple’s marital relationship, of their sexuality, and of the child” to be conceived. 2 Pope Benedict notes some of the problems associated with reproductive technologies:
“… the new problems associated, for example, with the freezing of human embryos, with embryonic reduction [selective abortion of medically implanted embryos], with pre-implantational diagnosis, with research on embryonic stem cells and with attempts at human cloning, clearly show that with extra-corporeal artificial fertilization, the barrier that served to protect human dignity has been violated. ... In a couples’ desire for a child, they must not succumb to methods that destroy embryos nor undermine the dignity of the transmission of human life through acts proper to the spouses." 3
The Church doesn’t abandon those facing infertility, but offers wisdom on how to proceed with addressing infertility morally while respecting the dignity of the spouses, the marital act, and the potential child God desires to create. The Church promotes Natural Family Planning (NFP) as an ethical means of regulating births that is beneficial for the spouses, the dignity of the child to be conceived, and the overall health of marriages. But developments in the methods of NFP don’t just help space children, they have led to a better understanding of women’s health and are a means to address infertility. Many common Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART) are immoral and, additionally, do a disservice to the couple because they are often not able to identify the underlying medical issues that are causing the infertility in the first place. Instead couples become wholly “dependent” on the science to “produce” their child bypassing the underlying medical concerns.
The NFP methods are not the out-dated “Calendar Rhythm Method” of the 1930’s which became obsolete in the light of medical research. The past century has seen great progress in the area of Natural Family Planning. Two, main means of Natural Family Planning have developed – the Sympo-Thermal method, promoted by the Couple to Couple league, and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. From the FertilityCare System – a whole area of new medical science has developed called NaPro Technology. NaPro Technology is holistic reproductive science that works to restore normal function to the body, never to suppress or destroy fertility. It is successfully, and morally, able to identify and treat many issues such as repeated miscarriages, hormonal imbalances, infertility, pre-menstrual syndrome, endometriosis, poly-cystic ovaries and a variety of other issues that not only cause reproductive issues for women but also affect their overall health.
Even though it comes from a good desire to have a child, we must avoid any means of addressing infertility that result in harm to the sacredness of the marital act and, or the death of innocent children in process. It is only in this way that we can begin to appreciate the true gift that life is and begin to help women with the underlying issues that cause infertility.
Facts & Figures
"A child ... is a gift. The 'supreme gift of marriage' is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged 'right to a child' would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right 'to be the fruit of the specific act of the (marital) love of his parents,' and 'the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.' " 4
- Over six million U.S. women struggle with infertility.
- Physicians define infertility as an inability to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without contraception.
- The Church holds 2 key points when evaluating scientific technique related to reproductive medicine. The technique must:
- Have unconditional respect for human life through conception to natural death
- Respect for the transmission of life through the marital act of the spouses
- In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) - Conception occurs outside the body--"in a glass." This ‘technique’ is against church teaching because it does not transmit life through acts ‘proper to the spouses’ and because it leads to the destruction of embryos
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine reported in 2005 that 85 percent of embryos transferred to a womb in IVF are never born alive.
- 3.6 embryos are transferred for every IVF cycle.
- 6.72 embryos are wasted for every live birth from IVF.
- Pre-implantation diagnosis is common with IVF and is directed toward the qualitative selection and consequent destruction of embryos, which constitutes an act of abortion.
- IVF does not seek to identify and treat the causes of infertility, but rather to bypass them.
- The prematurity rate with IVF is 11.5% increasing health problems with baby.
- The multiple birth rate with IVF is 35% with the number of triplets or more at 3.2%.
- There are nearly half a million frozen embryos (translate: tiny human babies) in the U. S.
- The divorce rate increases in couples undergoing IVF
- NaPro Technology identifies and treats abnormalities to normalize fertility so that couples can achieve a pregnancy in the normal way.
- The success rate for NaPro Technology in infertility through charting the FertilityCare System alone with fertility-focused intercourse is 20-40% with no medical intervention. The success rate for NaPro Technology in infertility is up to 80% with charting, fertility focused intercourse and medical or surgical restorative treatment 5,6
Educational Materials on Church Teaching
Respect Life Programs
Cures Without Cloning
Respect Life 101
USCCB: Reproductive Technology
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Respect for Human Life
Dignitas Personae (DP)
Donum Vitae: The Gift of Life (DV)
Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel of Life (EV)
Humanae Vitae (HV)
Familiaris Consortio: The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (FC)
Leadership & Volunteer Opportunities
If you or your organization has expertise or an interest in the topic of reproductive technologies, or if you would like to learn how you can assist in the life-saving work of the Respect Life Office by becoming a resource for information on the Church's teaching on reproductive technologoes, please contact us.