Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2377-78 re: in vitro fertilization:
[These procedures] dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children. Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union.
A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”
If anything exemplifies the madcap craziness of which the Church warns, it’s the single mom in California who recently had octoplets. She is not married, unemployed, bankrupt, and already had six children. She has set herself up to be a drain on society and an unstable household because she wanted a girl and could not accept that being unmarried and broke, she should probably focus on taking care of the children she already had. The situation is telling, though. Such multiple fertilizations happen by design with in vitro fertilization; when this happens, usually at least some of those octoplets are simply aborted. This is the dark reality of much of superovulation treatments and in vitro fertilization: it is for child-obsessed people who may be unmarried, unwilling to adopt, or from nontraditional families that may not provide a suitable environment for a child’s normal development in a family consisting of a mother and father.
Technology and medicine are increasingly value-neutral. The desires of the would-be parents trump all other considerations, not least the protection of life, but also a decent respect for the workings (and mysterious non-workings) of nature. The medical profession has increasingly narrowed the range of psychopathology, refusing to pronounce on the relative inferiority of “two mommies,” “two daddies,” being raised as a bastard, having multiple children like an addiction, or fetal developing in a womb alongside seven siblings like a litter of kittens.
I certainly have more than a little sympathy with parents who want to have children and cannot. But when a broke and unbalanced single mom with six kids employs technology to assist her in having octoplets so she can have a girl, it speaks for itself. It’s as ridiculous as innovations such as “sex reassignment surgery” for people that would be better served by getting their own mental health house in order. More important, this outcome reveals the poverty of an increasingly value-neutral world of medicine, where patient desires trumps all other considerations, including both the real good of the patient (a good that may conflict with her unbalanced desires), the broader good of society, and the necessary commitment to paternalism upon which respect for the medical profession rests.