I firmly believe that embryo adoption as it is currently understood is wrong. It is one of many immoral solutions to the question of what to do with these poor babies on ice. I also think, because of the violation of nature, and sanctity of marriage, plus the potential for the embryo dying anyway, embryo adoption is the greater evil of the options that are currently offered for solving the problem of snowflake babies.
Before I go on, we have several terms here that must be understood and distinguished.
First, what is in-vitro fertilization (IVF)? IVF is a process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the body. For the sake of absolute clarity, IVF from here on will refer to the IVF of a human egg cell by human sperm.
Second, what is embryo transfer? It is the act by which one or several embryos are placed into the uterus of a female with the intent to establish a pregnancy. Again, from here on out we are referring only to the transfer of a human embryo into a human female’s uterus. It needs to be abundantly clear embryo transfer (ET) is not implantation.
So what is implantation? Implantation occurs in the beginning of pregnancy when the embryo adheres to the wall of the uterus. Implantation is not embryo transfer. Implantation is the natural act of an embryo attaching to the wall of the uterus.
For the sake of further clarity, what exactly is Embryo Adoption? First, let’s split embryo adoption as it is commonly understood into two parts. The first part is the legal adoption of the child (embryo). In so far as the act of adopting an embryo in this sense is concerned there seems to be nothing illicit about it. You are merely assuming parental responsibility for the embryo’s life just as its genetic parents had responsibility for the life when the embryo was created via IVF.
In many ways a strict definition of “embryo adoption” would only refer to the legal assumption of parental responsibilities for the child (embryo). Why? Well, let’s examine the second part.
The second part is the surgical procedure, which is not the actual act of adoption which itself is traditionally a legal matter. The second part of what is commonly referred to as embryo adoption is the surgical process of introducing that embryo into the adoptive mother’s womb. Meaning embryo transfer. After all, it is impossible for an embryo created via IVF to implant in the adoptive mother without ET. To say otherwise would be to talk nonsense.
ET = MORALLY LICIT?
In answer to the bolded question, no! ET is not morally licit.
As Donum Vitae (DV) states: The Church’s teaching on marriage and human procreation affirms the “inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.
Because of the two meanings of the conjugal act, that it is both unitive and procreative, not only IVF, but ET have been condemned, and in every case. Whether you are gestating the baby for someone else as in the case of surrogacy, or are gestating the child for yourself, it is condemned. Even in the case of homologous fertilization/ET, which would be the best situation, is embryo transfer condemned.
In homologous ferilization and ET, the parents who donate the egg and sperm for the embryo, implant the embryo in the mother for the sake of keeping the child. As DV states, though, even
a homologous IVF and ET procedure that is free of any compromise with the abortive practice of destroying embryos and with masturbation, remains a technique which is morally illicit because it deprives human procreation of the dignity which is proper and connatural to it. Certainly, homologous IVF and ET fertilization is not marked by all that ethical negativity found in extra-conjugal procreation; the family and marriage continue to constitute the setting for the birth and upbringing of the children. Nevertheless, in conformity with the traditional doctrine relating to the goods of marriage and the dignity of the person, the Church remain opposed from the moral point of view to homologous ‘in vitro’ fertilization. Such fertilization is in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo. Although the manner in which human conception is achieved with IVF and ET cannot be approved, every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love.”
(bolded emphasis in the original)
I think this makes it explicit that embryo adoption insofar as the embryo transfer part is concerned, is morally illicit. The legal aspect? Not acceptable either. Until the surgical concept of ET is removed from our understanding of Embryo Adoption, leaving just the legal reality of adoption, Embryo Adoption should be opposed as contrary to Catholic moral teaching.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT LOLLIPOPS AND PUPPY DOGS
Snowflake babies are in a tragic state, but we must not confuse pro-life principles with the consequentialism involved in IVF and ET. We should not use an extraordinary surgical means to save an embryo’s life (ET) when that surgical means is offensive to nature, and condemned by the Church. Their lives are precious, and they have dignity, yes. It would be a gross injustice nontheless to compound the indignities suffered by using a consequentialist and immoral approach to saving their lives.
I will admit, at first glance, the idea of transferring embryo’s after adoption appears to fit with our pro-life principles. You’re saving a baby, right? Yes, but being pro-life, is not about life at any cost. If that were the case, then what would be the problem with IVF, and ET?
What to do about the embryo’s? I don’t know. This is a question no one has sorted out. As Dignitas Vitae says, those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called “spare” are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued.
© 2013. Joseph Mazarra. All Rights Reserved.