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June 7th, 2012
Is it ok to use fertility drugs and artificial insemination to conceive a child?

Many couples experience the heartbreak and disappointment of being unable to conceive a child. While the Church encourages research that may help them to conceive, it also notes that some medical interventions available today are contrary to Catholic teaching. In the understanding of the Church, procreation and union are the twin purposes of sexual intimacy; conceiving a child is uniquely and necessarily linked to the loving sexual union between its mother and father. Any procedure that disassociates the procreative act from the sexual act is in violation of Church teaching. This rules out artificial insemination, even when the sperm and egg belong to the married couple, because of the involvement of third parties (doctors and technicians) in the procreative act. A child comes into the world as the fruit of its parents’ sexual love for each other; the intervention of other parties cannot have the same meaning as that act of love. On the other hand, fertility drugs may be used to stimulate ovulation and help a married couple conceive through intercourse. Other morally acceptable procedures include surgery to correct tubal blockages in the reproductive system and timing intercourse to coincide with the most fertile days of the wife’s menstrual cycle.

As devastating as infertility can be for a couple, it does not mean that they cannot have a loving and fruitful union. The Church encourages those who have exhausted morally legitimate procedures and still cannot bear children to be co-creators with God in other ways, through adopting children or through loving service to those in need.

from Neela Kale and the Busted Halo Question Box


Today’s homework assignment: Take a look at this Busted Halo article about grieving infertility and check out some of the recommended resources. Think of how you might reach out to families living with infertility and how your parish might be more sensitive to those who suffer in silence. You might consider starting a support group or other outreach program.

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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • John

    As a husband coping with the grief of infertility, I’ve come to find the Church’s standard response to the use of infertility treatments as overly simplistic and insensitive to the emotional realities of the issue. This is not because of the Church’s objections to the use of most medical interventions; I understand the moral inconsistencies created if the Church did not teach against the use of artificial insemination and other treatments. Rather, I take exception to how the response casually drops adoption as a go-to substitute for natural childbirth. If the Church placed as much energy in adoption services as it does with the pro-life movement, I may feel differently. However, this is not the case. After being told twice over a two-year period by our local Catholic Charities that the best they could do is place us on their slow-moving application waiting list for families seeking to adopt, we sought help elsewhere. We first tried our state’s adoption program and completed the series of classes necessary to adopt a child in state custody. However when we indicated our preference not to do foster care (did not want to deal with the attachment issues of fostering a child then giving that child up), we were shown the figurative door. We have found comfort and support in a Baptist-affiliated organization that is assisting us with an international adoption. Our journey has been long and not yet complete but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing how difficult and trying this journey is for Catholic couples adhering to the Church’s teachings, I can’t help but feel the Church comes up short in putting actions behind its words.

  • Stacy

    Dave, either I misunderstood or you did; it seems to me that this article says the Church does not condone using infertility treatments.

  • Dave

    I’m not sure how the Church gets off telling homosexuals that any intimate actions they can express with one another is disordered and a sin, despite the fact that that’s how they were born, and yet a couple, who also clearly was born and joined together without the capacity to conceive, is allowed to seek infertility treatments. Infertility treatments cost an insane amount of money, money that could be better spent on charity or adoption, or sponsoring a child somewhere. If you can’t conceive naturally, the Church should advise you to explore other options that don’t involve pursuing trying to fix something that is a natural part of existence. I’m sorry, I just see that as incredibly hypocritical.

  • Bridget Green

    Excellent information to pass along. Sadly, many people don’t know these basic facts about Church teachings on infertility treatments and, what’s worse, some priests don’t seem to know either.

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