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What the Church teaches about egg donors, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research


As reproductive technology advances, further questions arise related to egg donors, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research. With society and science explaining one part, many may wonder what the Church teaches and how it affects motherhood.

Helen Watt, a Senior Research Fellow in the UK, studies the ethical impacts of abortion, fertility and reproduction and how it relates to the Church.

HELEN WATT
Senior Research Fellow, Anscombe Bioethics Centre
“The objection is not to technology per se, because sometimes there are very important things that can be done to help couples have a baby in a sexual way, in a marital way. No one is against technology that respects the human person, that respects the role of the husband and wife in causing the conception of their child. The problem is when technology replaces the role of the husband and wife, then we get these very serious problems, including the fragmentation of motherhood, which we see with egg donation and surrogate motherhood.”

This means the Church morally supports “responsible” stem cell research, where human embryos are not exploited or destroyed in the process, but are cherished as a human life. As John Paul II's encyclical “Donum vitae” states, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life is begun.” Another consideration is on the significance of generating life not as a result of conception within and from marriage.  

HELEN WATT
Senior Research Fellow, Anscombe Bioethics Centre

“You even see some women allow their eggs to be used to create embryos who are then destroyed purely for research, so nothing can be further from motherhood as it should be, which is about unconditional acceptance and welcome of a child from an act of love. This is manufacture of a child from your egg, where that child will be used as an experiemental subject. So simply to harvest cells for, supposedly some scientific benefit.”

She continued saying that motherhood is an extremely important and powerful role, but it must be pursued in ways worthy of the role. 

HELEN WATT
Senior Research Fellow, Anscombe Bioethics Centre
“Women who want to be mothers are encouraged to do anything possible to become a mother. These are infertile women who are encouraged to accept having their embryos discarded, to exploit other women, maybe use an egg donor if they need one, use a surrogate mother if they need one. So we've got a very unhealthy attitude toward motherhood here.”

This attitude affects all of society, starting with the family. Thus, the Catholic Church said the question is not about technology, but rather about destroying life. The Church supports mothers and families as long as human dignity is respected from conception to natural death.