To My Readers: I will be praying you all have a Happy and Blessed Holy Week and Easter in 2021. Thanks to my guest poster, A Simple Man, I have the opportunity to attend all Holy Week services with greater ease and to spend more time with my family this Easter. As always, I will respond below to any comments, especially those addressed to me. I hope you all enjoy this week's post and find it as interesting and informative as I did!
God Bless you all---Introibo
On the Subject of In Vitro Fertilization
By A Simple Man
[ASM’s Note: This post will be discussing mature topics related to matters of human sexuality, the reproductive act, and certain sins of impurity. Although no vulgarity will be employed by yours truly, the terms employed by approved moral theologians may seem frank and quite candid to impressionable minds. Reader discretion is advised.]
While browsing headlines recently, an article from InsideHook (an online platform dedicated to news and luxury lifestyle articles for affluent men) published on January 8, 2021 caught my eye: “There’s a Pandemic Sperm Shortage, and “Sperm King” Megadonors Are in High Demand.” What an outlandish title, to say the least!
A brief summary follows: as the COVID-derived lockdowns continue on, demand for sperm banks has risen, while “supply” is at a shortage; to meet this demand, men are donating sperm (the “sperm kings” in question) more and more through online networks, sometimes free of charge; the sordid reasons for why these men donate sperm is given (some explicitly want to pass on their genes without the responsibility of parenthood); a linked follow-up article (Bowles, Nellie. “The Sperm Kings Have a Problem: Too Much Demand” New York Times, published Jan. 8, 2021) goes into further detail, but I think the following words from Ms. Bowles fully capture the moral absurdity on display:
“And so in the capitalist crunch, Sperm World — the world of people buying and selling sperm — has gotten wild. Donors are going direct to customers. They meet with prospective mothers-to-be in Airbnbs for an afternoon handoff; Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members have sprung up. The reason I know this at all is simple enough: I am 32 years old, partnered to a woman, stuck at home and in the market for the finest sperm I can get.”
Sperm is treated as a commodity (selling up to $1,100 a vial per the prior article!), much like the babies that result from them. All of this has been made possible by the process known as IVF: in vitro fertilization.
What is IVF? “In vitro” is Latin for “in the glass”; IVF describes the process where egg cells are extracted from a woman and combined with a man’s sperm in a laboratory dish or some other receptacle (hence the colloquial term “test tube baby”). After fertilization has occurred, the zygote is then returned to the woman’s uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy. This form of artificial insemination achieved public notoriety with the birth of Louise Joy Brown on July 26, 1978 (Source: History.com Editors. “World’s first "test tube" baby born.” HISTORY, published Mar. 12, 2010, last updated Jul. 23, 2020); since then, births accomplished via IVF account for up to 1 through 2 percent of all U.S. births as recently as 2012, as reported by Penn Medicine.
The specific outcomes of this procedure have resulted in chaotic “family” arrangements, as already seen from the above articles (particularly with regards to lesbian couples seeking to have children using their own ova without having a man involved). However, with regards to a husband and wife seeking to overcome issues of infertility, is IVF morally permissible? This is what we shall investigate.
What would IVF be morally classified as? Let us first consider that, as far as the man is concerned, sperm banks obtain their samples through acts of onanism, providing pornographic material to help “facilitate” their donation. (For the sake of propriety, I will not link to any articles with stories about this aspect of sperm donation; needless to say, this can be independently verified via articles through publishers like VICE, the UK Daily Mail, etc.) It goes without saying that we’re already on bad footing.
Secondly, before providing numerous excerpts from McHugh, O.P. and Callan, O.P.’s Moral Theology, let us recall some definitions: fornication is the copulation of an unmarried man with an unmarried woman who is not a virgin; adultery (a distinct species of lust) is sexual intercourse with the husband or wife of another, while a type of imperfect adultery occurs if unlawful familiarities occur without intercourse; coition is another term for natural sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.