Why We Said No to IVF–Before We Were Catholic

“Have you guys every considered IVF?”

Over the last ten years, we’ve been asked this question a number of times. And, since I have a heart for resolving others’ curiosity, I figured I could answer it in a public way.

The short answer: No.

The truth is, we never really got to a point to be able to consider IVF before discovering it was immoral.

Several years ago, I somehow came to be in possession of an issue of the magazine Christianity Today. I don’t know if we got it in the mail as a teaser or if someone gave it to me, but I opened it up and came across an article about IVF. It kind of blew my mind.

But let me take a few steps back.

Even before this article, I was always uncomfortable with the idea of IVF. I wanted to conceive a child with my husband, not with a lab technician. IVF seemed to be stepping outside the normal means to conceive a child as a desperate attempt to get something I wasn’t entitled to having. For me, having our own child by way of artificial reproductive technology (ART) just never outweighed conceiving a child within the unitive act of marriage.

Now–back to the magazine article.

The article laid out the basic process for IVF and I found it shocking. I no longer have the article, but what was detailed went something like this: The woman is given drugs so that several of her eggs mature at the same time. Eggs. Plural. The process is so expensive, that more than one egg has to be fertilized to increase the chances of conception. The eggs are taken from the woman and semen is collected from the man. The eggs and sperm are ultimately joined in a petri dish (in vitro is latin for “in glass”). Conception takes place and the embryos are allowed to develop for several days. And then begins the process of determining which fertilized embryos should be implanted into the woman’s uterus. The “strongest” embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus while the others are destroyed or frozen. The woman is observed to see if the embryos implant. It may be that more than one do. In that case, she and the doctor may decide to to use “selective reduction”. At some point during the early part of the pregnancy, after the embryos become fetuses, the doctor will determine which are the less desirable ones. These are terminated by way of a needle filled with potassium chloride inserted into the fetal heart.

So. For someone that knew the science behind the start of human life, this article was, like I said, mind-blowing. At the time, I had no idea that IVF routinely involved the termination of fertilized eggs. Not that freezing human life seemed like a better idea.

“Why did you bring up being Catholic?”

Right. Why did I make a point to say we ruled out IVF before becoming Catholic? Too many times, people simply think it’s because we’re Catholic that we haven’t used IVF or any other ART. And when I say that, I mean people imply, unintentionally, that we somehow didn’t use our own brains when making this decision. Rather, it’s like they think we would jump at the idea of using IVF if only that curmudgeon of a Catholic Church would just let us.

And, hey, there might be people that feel that way. Which is perfectly reasonable. With something as complicated and deeply profound as the unitive act of marriage, coupled with the intense sorrow of infertility, it can take a lifetime to even start to come close to complete understanding.

But that’s not us. We get it. We’ve done our homework. We know the Church is teaching what is right. We’re sad we’ve been unable to conceive. We’re not sad about not using IVF.

So, that’s it. We will not be using IVF, or any other form of ART, to conceive a child. Children are a gift and we know that we’re not entitled to this gift. We also know that infertility isn’t something actively willed by God. His permissive will may allow it, and we fully trust that He will take our sorrow and work it for good.

…provided we also suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with him

-Romans 8:17

For Friends & Family: We would like to state that this post is not intended as a judgment on anyone who has used IVF. All human life has value and should be cherished, regardless of the means by which it entered the world. We actually are not aware that anyone we know has used any form of ART. 

Sources & Helpful Links

A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology

In Vitro Fertilization

Good Intentions: Why IVF is Wrong

IVF, Custody Rights & Family Law
(the state deciding who’s a parent…because that will end well)

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

How can The Church Deny the Right of Women to use IVF?

The Hardest Teaching of Them All

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