The technologies available to people who want to have a baby but struggle to conceive naturally are many and growing, such as medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), donated eggs and sperm, surrogacy and genetic screening of embryos.
Reproductive technology raises many questions — medical, emotional, financial and moral — that can be particularly vexing for people who want to make decisions in line with their religious faith. Based on my own experience with reproductive technology, and conversations with others, here are five recommendations for people of faith who are considering using reproductive technology.
1. Be clear about your hopes, desires and goals.
People considering reproductive technology have a straightforward goal: To have a healthy baby. But given the many choices available to today’s aspiring parents, it’s helpful to dig a bit deeper: What motivates your desire for a child? Do you see parenthood as a vocation (a “calling”)? How important to you is the experience of pregnancy and childbirth? Or that there be a genetic link between parents and child?
Once you walk through the doors of a fertility clinic, you will face pressure to avail yourself of any and all treatments to achieve pregnancy. It is vital that you enter those doors with a solid sense of why you want to have a baby, and how your faith informs that desire, so that you can evaluate your many options for building a family.
2. Consider moral questions.
Moral questions around reproductive technology encompass, but go far beyond, traditional concerns raised in abortion debates about embryonic life and reproductive choice. For example, what are the implications of our being able to control certain aspects of procreation (such as screening embryos)? Does fertility medicine tempt us to view children not as gifts, but as products manufactured to parental specifications? The market orientation of fertility medicine raises questions about stewardship of resources, and the potential exploitation of patients desperate to have a baby, gamete donors, surrogates and the children themselves.
The news media tend to alternately gloss over or sensationalize such questions. Clinicians, committed to their discipline and focused on achieving pregnancies, are unlikely to raise moral concerns with patients. But moral concerns remain (in fact, as reproductive technology grows in scope and capability, they are multiplying), and are highly relevant for people of faith.
3. Take your time.
Pursuing technological reproduction is like stepping onto a treadmill; once you get on board and get going, it can be hard to step off. Protestant Christian bioethicist Gilbert Meilaender has observed that, “[Reproductive] technology carries its own momentum which, if not irresistible, is nevertheless very powerful.”…Continue Reading
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