Culture at the Crossroads
What IVF Does Not Heal
It is the global picture of adoption that makes IVF a troubling practice. Adoption is very often a difficult decision; it takes a great deal of soul-searching and hard conversations for people to come to the decision to adopt, particularly when the adoptable children have special needs. Most often, the evidence tells us, people undertake that difficult adoption process because they have been forced to consider it after dealing with infertility.
From this macroscopic view, IVF represents an attempt to respond to people's desires for children without attending to the larger global picture. IVF does not serve the common good -- that is, the good of countries and states providing loving homes to all their children. It interrupts the transformative process -- the conversion, if you will -- experienced by many families who ultimately are led to seriously consider adoption. It feeds the natural desire of parents to be genetically related to their children, but it does not raise the question of whether this desire serves a larger good.
Because the desire to parent is such a powerful desire, the slow development of that desire can be difficult. Those who have undergone that development -- who, like my wife and me, have felt the movement from resistance to acceptance to enthusiastic embrace of adoption -- understand that from a macroscopic perspective society ought to encourage it. Few people would automatically choose to adopt special needs children, or children orphaned by AIDS, or older children in foster care. Yet paradoxically, those who feel the sting of infertility are the people who eventually become the tenaciously loving parents of those children who otherwise would languish in institutions.
IVF represents a false promise: it does not heal, nor does it serve the greater good of children and families around the world. It preys upon the fear that young couples experience in the early stages of infertility, and for many it simply delays the truth that they will never conceive. Far from being a therapy for a medical condition, it is a circumvention of a transformative process that societies ought to support.
For Elizabeth Scalia's response to this article, click here.
Tim Muldoon holds a Ph.D. in Catholic systematic theology and is an award-winning author and Catholic theologian of the new evangelization.