Experts warn of ‘inhumane’ treatment of embryos, ‘evil’ circumstances surrounding IVF — By: Catholic News Agency

Heritage Foundation researcher Emma Waters speaks to Prudence Robertson on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Feb. 29, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly”

CNA Staff, Mar 2, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic moral theologian this week warned that in vitro fertilization (IVF) “separates the things that God wanted to be together” while another expert spoke out against the “inhumane” treatment of the hundreds of thousands of human embryos produced by IVF. 

The Alabama Supreme Court has sparked a national debate on the ethics surrounding IVF following the court’s recent decision that ruled embryos are considered children under state law.

“EWTN Pro-Life Weekly” anchor Prudence Robertson spoke to Emma Waters, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, about the ethical implications of IVF and its effects on marriage and society.

“In a normal in vitro fertilization process, clinicians will create anywhere between 15 to 20 embryos at a time,” Waters explained.

Embryos are then tested for genetic issues, and parents have the opportunity to choose the sex of the baby, she explained. After this, wanted embryos are either implanted into the intended mother or frozen for a later time. 

But unwanted embryos are “routinely destroyed or donated to science, where they’re also later destroyed after having inhumane testing done to them,” Waters pointed out.

Because of the high cost of IVF, which averages about $19,000, many couples choose to discontinue the process, resulting in the embryonic children being destroyed. 

Nearly 80,000 infants born were conceived through such alternatives to sex, according to the most recent data from 2020. But reports say that between 400,000 and 1.5 million frozen embryonic children are preserved in laboratories in the U.S. today. 

Father Ezra Sullivan, OP, a professor of moral theology and psychology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, told Robertson that the Church is outspoken against the mass “production of children” through IVF. 

When asked what might be done about the thousands upon thousands of embryonic children now in existence in labs throughout the U.S., Sullivan called it an “irresolvably evil” situation.

“Should we try to allow parents to conceive these children, since they already exist?” he asked. “Should we baptize them — and in that moment of baptism, the embryo, unfortunately, cannot survive?”

“There’s no definitive resolution because it’s a situation that John Paul II would say is irresolvably evil,” he continued. “There’s no way to solve it without some kind of moral problem arising.”

IVF has “totally upended society’s understanding” of what it means to procreate, Waters said. 

Children “can be created at will by any adults who simply have the right parts whether they come from themselves or they come through sperm and egg donation,” she explained. 

Sullivan, meanwhile, noted that IVF “breaks apart” the “marital bond” because it creates a child “outside of the marital act, within a hospital or laboratory.” 

“The issue of IVF is sensitive because a lot of people are having trouble conceiving in this time, ” he said. “But ultimately the Church says that we want to go the natural route.”

IVF separates ‘the things God wanted to be together’

While “conception is difficult” for a variety of reasons, Sullivan noted that IVF “separates the things that God wanted to be together: love and marriage, conception, procreation in the very marital act.” 

“One of the difficulties that we need to accept as human beings is that we’re weak, we’re imperfect,” Sullivan noted. “And sometimes when, for instance, we have trouble conceiving, sometimes that’s our body’s way of saying that maybe we need to find another way to give life to the world, another way to serve others.” 

The Alabama ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by three couples after their IVF-created embryos were accidentally destroyed at the lab where they were stored. 

During the discussion of the issue on “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly,” Dr. Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, defended the Alabama ruling.

Meaney said the decision “recognizes that human life begins at conception” and that “children should be protected no matter where they are, in their mother’s womb or in the laboratory.”

“In fact, it points out that the in vitro fertilization process kills huge numbers of children at the embryonic stage,” he said.

The ruling limited the protection of these embryos to legal protection against cases where clinics were negligent. But the Alabama Legislature has since defined protections for IVF after three clinics in the state paused their in vitro services.  

In the wake of the controversy, several top contenders for the 2024 U.S. presidential election have voiced their support for IVF. 

Donald Trump came out strongly against the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on social media, saying he supports IVF “in every state in America.” 

Trump’s lone remaining rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she conceived her son through artificial insemination. She said that “Alabama needs to go back and look at the law” that fueled the court’s decision. 

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, told EWTN White House correspondent Owen Jensen this week that he disagreed with the Catholic Church’s position on IVF.

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