IVF Black Market Babies and the Church

In-vitro fertilisation

The current battles over the fate of thousands of babies conceived via in vitro fertilization would confound even King Solomon.

Sensational news reports surrounding the $180,000 price tag for Ukrainian black-market babies shocked the determinedly secular segments of society, and few remain unmoved by the story of the FBI’s round-up of “baby-brokers.” Beyond the initial horror of children clinically conceived and sold as a commodity, investigators discovered that these babies have dozens of full and half siblings that were sold elsewhere. This opens the possibility that, in 25 years, a young man might unknowingly marry his sister.

Added to the fate of the children is the dismal lot of the destitute women (often living in third-world countries) who offer their bodies as surrogate wombs. In India, 500 clinics service the nation’s “fertility tourism,” estimated to be a $450-million-per-year industry — and growing. Ads for medical tourism in Thailand boast, “We’ve got the affordable IVF procedures you heard about, great IVF vacations, and low-cost IVF gender selection.”

As fertility technologies increase, so do the ethical quandaries. Scanning the comments on these news articles, one is immediately struck by the revulsion many people have to these accounts of black-market infants. On the other hand, the dozens of websites soliciting surrogate mothers indicate that surrogacy is — for many of these same people — just another legitimate business arrangement.

The subject is complicated, even polarizing, because many couples (including Catholics) conceived their own children via IVF. For these parents, IVF is applauded as a means of family-building, not abuse of babies. The temptation of couples who have difficulty conceiving deserves our compassion and prayers. The echo of Hannah is heard down the centuries: “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1 Sam 1:10-11).

Yet the lurid news accounts of black-market babies provide an opening to share the wisdom of the Church’s prohibition against IVF and teaching on the inviolate sacredness of human life. The challenge for Catholics is to effectively engage the secular argument, which is best achieved from the perspective of the common good for all of society without recourse to religious references. Wisdom need not be presented as religious or scriptural teaching, but rather as the practical consequence that proceeds from violating a basic ethic: Humans cannot be owned.

Read More: Crisis Magazine


Image:  Crisis Magazine

Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , ,