October 14, 2009 // Uncategorized

Is visiting a fertility clinic ethical?

Are infertile Catholics permitted to visit fertility clinics? Obviously Elizabeth and Zachary, in Luke’s Gospel, would not have visited one. Oddly, some political leaders and followers favor the work of fertility clinics, yet adversely condemn the work of stem-cell research labs. Both industries perform embryonic abortion in achieving their goals. Fortunately, there are stem-cell research labs that profess not to use embryonic techniques. Finally, are Catholics permitted to buy publicly traded stock from open market fertility businesses? JG, Tucson, Ariz.

Good questions. Let’s break them down a bit.

Regarding the permissibility of Catholics with fertility problems visiting fertility clinics, the question leaves out the purpose for their visit. If it is to pursue an ethical treatment, this could be permitted under certain circumstances. If it is to pursue a treatment that is unethical, then it would not. 

Examples of unethical treatments would include in vitro fertilization, the donation, purchasing or selling of gametes, or the involvement of a surrogate mother. An example of an ethical treatment would be giving a woman who does not regularly ovulate various injections in order to achieve the normal ovulation of one egg. Unethical treatments replace or substitute for the marital act, whereas ethical treatments assist the marital act in achieving its end but do not replace it. 

A further consideration with regard to visiting a fertility clinic that does seriously unethical practices such as destroying or freezing human embryos, is the element of scandal in visiting such a place — even if for an ethical procedure. For example, would we visit a clinic that regularly kills Downs syndrome children or freezes them for scientific exploitation? Very likely, the answer would be that we would not want our money going to such an establishment or giving others the impression that we do not consider these evil deeds an outrage. The same holds for fertility clinics involved in similar evils.

With regard to stem-cell research, the most promising research to date does not involve embryonic stem cells. Those research labs that either kill the embryos or pay for the stem cells derived from killed embryos are, indeed, involved in evils as great as those in many fertility clinics.

Finally, with regard to the permissibility of buying the publicly traded stock of fertility businesses, it is very unlikely that it could be justified. Were the business one which mainly offered ethical services, then a stockholder could purchase a sufficient quantity of stock in order to try to have a positive influence on the company and curb its unethical practices.

However, due to the fact that fertility businesses whose stock is publicly traded are mainly involved in unethical services, there would be little to no prospect of changing the company. To purposely buy such stock in order to benefit from the money made by their evil actions would, obviously, be unethical.

Fred Everett, co-director of the Office of Family Life, answered this question.

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