Category Archives: Sexuality

Contraceptive Dangers

Rising Concern Over Side Effects

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Even as governments and family planning groups continue to push contraceptives, new evidence is coming forward on their dangerous side effects. In England, the minister for children, Margaret Hodge, declared that she was in favor of injectable contraceptives for schoolgirls, BBC reported Nov. 16.

“What is really interesting is this contraceptive injection,” she declared. “If people are having sex, you don’t want them to have babies at that age.”

Hodge’s enthusiasm for contraceptives flies in the face of scientific warnings. On Aug. 23 Reuters reported on research by a team from the University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Women who use the injected contraceptive Depo-Provera have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases, they concluded.

Charles Morrison, of Family Health International, said that more study is needed, but it is possible that Depo-Provera itself causes a susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases. “We did adjust for differences in condom use, differences in multiple partners, differences in the number of sexual coital acts,” he told Reuters.

Depo-Provera is also under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency has now stipulated that the drug must carry a special warning that prolonged use can cause significant loss of bone density, the Associated Press reported Nov. 17.

Shortly after the FDA announcement, another study confirmed the problem of bone loss due to Depo-Provera, Reuters reported Dec. 23. Researchers from the University of Iowa compared 178 women using the injectable with 145 women not using hormonal contraception.

Average bone density at the hip fell 2.8% one year after starting Depo-Provera and 5.8% after two years. Loss of bone density in the spine was similar. This compares to average bone loss of less than 0.9% among the control group.

Deadly side effects

Another contraceptive with troubling consequences is the so-called patch. Last April 4 the New York Post reported on the case of 18-year-old Zakiya Kennedy, who died as a result of blood clots, formed as a result of her patch contraceptive. She had switched from using birth-control pills to the patch about three weeks before her death.

The newspaper followed this up with a Sept. 19 report tying the Ortho Evra patch, the only kind marketed in the United States, to the deaths of at least 17 women in the past two years. The article added that scores of other women using the patch have suffered complications, including 21 “life-threatening” cases of blood clots and other ailments. The data came from FDA reports obtained by the newspaper.

The article added that the manufacturer claims the patch has been used by 4 million American women since it went on sale in 2002. A company spokesman commented that the illnesses and deaths are “consistent with the health risks” of the pill, which it says kills 0.3 to 1.9 women in every 100,000 users ages 15 to 29.

Concerns over the health risks of another contraceptive forced the FDA to step in a few days ago to correct a TV commercial. Reuters reported Dec. 30 that the FDA warned Barr Pharmaceuticals that its ads for Seasonale pills failed to mention the side effect of frequent and substantial bleeding.

The FDA warned the company that the commercial misleads consumers by excluding this information, to make the birth control pill seem safer. The warning came in a letter to the company released by the FDA on Dec. 29. In addition to the bleeding problems the pill’s label warns that other side effects can include blood clots, heart attack and stroke. But the commercials, observed the FDA, use “compelling visuals” and “fast-paced scene changes” along with other techniques that distract from warning information.

Good news proved false

One recent report at first seemed to disprove health worries over contraceptives. The British newspaper Guardian on Oct. 26 noted that some studies had concluded that the pill could help protect women from heart disease and strokes. Plus, another study of women in America concluded that the pill did not increase the risk of breast or cervical cancer.

These results were presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference in Philadelphia last October. The data came from the ongoing Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study, which is tracking a group of more than 160,000 women.

The report in the Guardian was skeptical about the positive news. It noted that the WHI study had previously reported data linking hormone replacement treatment to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes. The contraceptive pill and HRT are practically the same, the article noted.

The doubts proved to be prescient. On Nov. 27 the London-based Times reported that the WHI had subsequently rejected the findings drawn from its data and demanded a retraction.

Jacques Rossouw, acting director of the WHI, admitted to the Times that the study lacked credibility. “The researchers just looked at base-line data, which is very poor data,” he said. “That is why the findings are so bizarre. These kinds of results are just not credible.”

The Times followed this story up with another article, on Dec. 13, that warned of higher stroke risks for women who take the pill. Based on a study of more than 5,000 people, researchers from Canada, the United State and Spain have concluded that migraine sufferers who take the pill are up to eight times more likely to suffer a stroke than those not using it. The Times added that migraines affect an estimated 6 million people in Britain, with women being more susceptible to the problem.

So-called morning-after pills are also associated with health problems. A July 30 report by Medical News Today summarized the findings of a study published by Dr. Gene Rudd in the September issue of the Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

Last July 22, Barr Laboratories reapplied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to receive approval for Plan B to be made available over-the-counter, after the FDA’s initial refusal. Rudd’s article contains data arguing that easing access to Plan B would place the health of many women at risk.

Rudd noted that nonprescription access to Plan B would keep many women out of doctors’ offices and away from appropriate, comprehensive care. Additionally, Plan B may encourage more risk-taking behaviors such as “unprotected” sex that increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Health concerns are not limited to contraceptives. The abortion pill RU-486 has been linked to a number of deaths. A well-known case is the 2003 death of Holly Patterson, an 18-year-old Californian who succumbed to septic shock after taking RU-486.

Holly’s father, Monty Patterson, said that the FDA should ban the abortion pill after a third death was being linked to its use, the Associated Press reported Nov. 16. That same day, the New York Times reported that the FDA has asked that the warning label on the RU-486 be strengthened.

In an opinion article published Nov. 19 in the New York Times, Donna Harrison, an obstetrician-gynecologist and member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, accused authorities of having given the green light to the abortion pill in 2000 due to political interference by the Clinton administration.

She explained that documents recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Clinton administration “pushed to get RU-486 approved before the 2000 election despite the lack of reliable data demonstrating its safety.” That news may have come too late for at least a few RU-486 users.

Bishop Victor Galeone on God’s Plan for Marriage

ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, NOV. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a pastoral letter in defense of the Church’s teaching on contraception, published by Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine. The letter was slightly adapted here.

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Marriage: A Communion of Life and Love

A Pastoral Letter by Bishop Victor Galeone

Bishop of Saint Augustine, Florida

My brothers and sisters in the Lord,

1. Some state legislatures are presently considering bills that would redefine marriage as the stable union of any two adults regardless of gender. Such legislation would equate same-sex unions with traditional marriage. Furthermore, divorces continue to escalate to the point where couples may now get a bona fide divorce online for fees ranging from $50 to $300.

These latest developments are mere symptoms of a vastly more serious disorder. Until the taproot of that disorder is cut, I fear that we will continue to reap the fruit of failed marriages and worsening sexual behavior at every level of society.

The disorder? Contraception. The practice is so widespread that it involves 90% of married couples at some point of their marriage, cutting across all denominational lines. Since one of the chief roles of the bishop is to teach, I invite you to revisit what the Church affirms in this area, and more importantly, why.

I. God’s plan for marriage

2. The vast majority of people today consider contraception a non-issue. So much so that to label it a disorder sounds like a gross exaggeration. And to revisit it seems analogous to studying a treatise from the Flat Earth Society. But contraception is an issue, an absolutely vital issue. To comprehend why it is wrong, it’s first necessary to understand what God originally intended marriage to be. In the opening chapters of Genesis we learn that God himself designed marriage for a twofold purpose: to communicate life and love.

3. There are two accounts of creation in the book of Genesis. The first account occurs in chapter one: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” [1] The next verse contains the very first command given by God: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” We thus see that God’s first purpose for marriage is that it be life-giving.

Without the love embrace between husband and wife, human life would cease to exist on this earth. In the second account of creation in Genesis, we learn that the other purpose God has for marriage is that it be love-giving: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helpmate as his partner.” [2] Yes, God meant husband and wife to be intimate friends, supporting each other in mutual and lasting love. Accordingly, marriage exists to communicate both life and love.

4. The two purposes of marriage are so mutually interconnected as to be inseparable. First, recall that Jesus ruled out the possibility of divorce by applying these words to the union of husband and wife: “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one ever separate.” [3]

In other words, spouses form an organic entity, like head and heart — not a mechanical one, like lock and key. So the separation of the head or heart from the body — unlike the removal of a key from its lock — entails the death of the organism. So too, with divorce. Likewise, it was God who also combined the love-giving and the life-giving aspects of marriage in one and the same act.

Therefore, we can no more separate through contraception what God joined together in the marital act than we can separate through divorce what God joined together in the marriage union itself. [4]

II. The body language of marital love

5. Before examining what the Church teaches about contraception, I would like to digress for a moment. According to Pope John Paul II, God designed married love to be expressed in a special language — the body language of the sexual act [5]. In fact, sexual communication uses many of the same terms that verbal communication does: intercourse, to know (carnally), to conceive, etc [6]. With this in mind, let’s pose some questions:

  • Is it normal for a wife to insert ear-plugs, while listening to her husband?
  • Is it normal for a husband to muffle his mouth, while speaking to his wife?

These examples are so abnormal as to appear absurd. Yet if such behavior is abnormal for verbal communication, why do we tolerate a wife using a diaphragm or the Pill, or a husband employing a condom during sexual communication?

6. Worse still, how can one justify a husband having a surgeon clip his robust vocal cords, or a wife having her healthy eardrums surgically removed? Yet in the area of sexual communication, how do such horrific examples differ from a vasectomy or a tubal ligation?

Isn’t it the task of a surgeon to remove an organ only when it is diseased and threatens human life? If the testes or ovaries are not diseased, on what grounds are we frustrating their purpose? Could it be that we have been so indoctrinated by the culture of death that we now consider babies a disease, from which we must immunize ourselves through sterilization?

7. Yes, we have been created in the image and likeness of God! Jesus revealed God’s inner life to us as a Trinity of persons. Accordingly, the body language of the marital union between husband and wife must reflect God’s own inner life, namely, the mutual love between the Father and the Son, which is the person of the Holy Spirit. From the first page to the last, the Bible is a love story.

It begins in Genesis with the marriage of Adam and Eve and it ends in the Book of Revelation with the wedding feast of the Lamb — the marriage of Christ and his Bride, the Church. From all eternity God craves to give himself to us in marriage. No one expressed that fact more graphically than the prophet Isaiah:

“As a young man marries a maiden,

so will your Maker marry you.

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

so will your God rejoice over you.”7

St. Paul embellished this theme when he wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” [8] How did Christ give himself up for the Church? Totally — to the last drop of his blood! He held nothing back. If husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved, can they hold anything back? Not even their fertility?

III. Contraception: Telling lies with our bodies

8. Since God fashioned our bodies male and female to communicate both life and love, every time that husband and wife deliberately frustrate this twofold purpose through contraception, they are acting out a lie. The body language of the marital act says, “I’m all yours,” but the contraceptive device adds, “except for my fertility.”

So in actual fact, they are lying to each other with their bodies. Even worse, they are tacitly usurping the role of God. By thwarting the purpose of the marital love embrace, they are telling God, “You may have designed our bodies to help you transmit life to an immortal soul, but you made a mistake — a mistake we intend to correct. You may be Lord of our lives — but not of our fertility.”

9. Thirty-five years ago this month, Pope Paul VI said essentially the same thing when he issued his encyclical “Humanae Vitae”: “There is an inseparable link between the two meanings of the marriage act: the unitive meaning (love-giving) and the procreative meaning (life-giving). This connection was established by God himself, and man is not permitted to break it on his own initiative.” [9]

Pope Paul went on to condemn every form of contraception as being unworthy of the dignity of the human person. A tidal wave of angry dissent erupted over this teaching. Catholics and non-Catholics alike berated “the celibate old man in the Vatican” for failing to read the signs of the times and thus hindering the Church’s full entry into the modern era. But the Holy Father was merely restating the unbroken teaching of the Church from the beginning, upheld by all Christian denominations until the Anglican Church made the first break at the Lambeth Conference of 1930.[10] In substance — though not expressed in these exact words — he was declaring: “It is not right for man to separate what God has joined together. Attempting to do so would enshrine man in the place of God, and unleash a series of unspeakable evils on society.”

10. Many scoffed at the dire consequences that Pope Paul predicted if the use of contraception escalated. Among his predictions were: 1) increased marital infidelity; 2) a general lowering of morality, especially among the young; 3) husbands viewing their wives as mere sex objects; and 4) governments forcing massive birth control programs on their people.

Thirty-five years later the moral landscape is strewn with the following stark reality: 1) The divorce rate has more than tripled. 2) The number of sexually transmitted diseases has expanded from six to 50. 3) Pornography grosses more than all the receipts from professional sports and legitimate entertainment combined. 4) Sterilization is forced on unsuspecting women in Third World countries, with China’s one-child-per-couple policy in the vanguard. Today, even critics of “Humanae Vitae” admit that its teaching was prophetic.[11]

11. Many Catholics who make use of contraceptives claim that they are doing nothing wrong since they are merely obeying the dictates of their conscience.

After all, doesn’t the Church teach that we must follow our conscience to decide if a behavior is right or wrong? Yes, that’s true-provided that it’s a properly formed conscience. Specifically, we must all conform our individual consciences to the natural law and the Ten Commandments, just as we have to adjust our clocks to sun time (Greenwich Mean Time). If a clock goes too fast or too slow, it will soon tell us that it’s bedtime at dawn. And to say that we must accommodate our individual conscience to behavior that clearly contradicts God’s law is to say that we must rule our lives by the clock, even when it tells us that night is day.[12]

IV. NFP: Speaking the truth with our bodies

12. I fear that much of what I have said seems harshly critical of couples using contraceptives. In reality, I am not blaming them for what has occurred during the past four decades. It was not their fault. With rare exceptions, because of our silence we bishops and priests are to blame. [13]

A letter I received from a young father last year is characteristic of many others: “Early in our marriage, Jan and I used artificial contraception like everybody else. Today’s culture was telling us that this was the normal thing to do. We knew the ‘official’ Church teaching was against it, but we were not taught why. We even had priests tell us that it was a personal decision; so if we felt the need to use contraception, it was okay. But couples need to be taught why contraception is wrong. We were never taught that the Pill is an abortifacient, that can possibly abort a [newly conceived] child without us knowing it. We were not taught that artificial birth control is a hindrance to building a healthy marriage. We did not know that there is a healthier, Church-approved alternative to artificial birth control.”

13. While contraception is always wrong, there is a morally acceptable way for married couples to space their children — natural family planning (NFP). Couples may regulate births by abstaining from the marital act during the wife’s fertile period. NFP instructors teach couples how to identify the fertile days, which can last from seven to 10 days per cycle.

NFP has a number of benefits: It is scientifically sound, it involves no harmful side effects, and it entails no cost after the initial fee for materials. Studies have shown that NFP, when accurately followed, can be 99% effective in postponing pregnancy. That’s equivalent to the Pill and better than all the barrier methods. Best of all, while complying with God’s will, husband and wife discover the beautifully designed functions of their fertility, enhance their intimacy, and deepen their love for each other.

14. But how does natural family planning differ from contraception? And why bother, if their objective is the same? To understand the difference, one must realize that having a right intention for an action does not always justify the means.

For example, two separate couples want to support their families. The first couple does it through legitimate employment, while the other couple does it by trafficking in illegal drugs. Or two persons want to lose weight. The first accomplishes the objective by adhering to a strict diet, while the other person grossly overeats and then induces vomiting. Or to return to our analogy of the language of the body: To say that NFP is no different from contraception is like saying that maintaining silence is the equivalent of telling a lie.

Paul VI expressed the same idea more poetically: “To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not master of the sources of life, but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.” [14]

15. What would you think of a scientist who discovered the cure for cancer but refused to divulge it? Confronted with the spiritual cancer attacking the family today, how can one explain the reluctance of us bishops and priests in spreading the good news of the Church’s full teaching on married love and life?

Consider this statistic: Today at least 30% of all marriages end in divorce, compared with only 3% of NFP users.[15] Since the use of contraception burgeoned in the early 1960s to the present, there has been a corresponding increase in the incidence of divorce. How does one account for such a dramatic increase in failed marriages? As we saw in Paragraph 4, to separate what God joined together in the marital act through contraception is bound to have repercussions on what God joined together in the marriage union — namely, divorce. The solution is clear. What’s needed is courage.

16. In order to counter the silence surrounding the Church’s teaching in this area, as your bishop, I ask that the following guidelines be implemented in our diocese:

  • All pastoral ministers should study the liberating message of John Paul II’s “theology of the body” in order to share it with others.[16]
  • Confessors should become familiar with the “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life.”
  • When appropriate, priests and deacons should present in their homilies the Church’s teaching dealing with marriage, including why contraceptive behavior is wrong.
  • Adequate instruction in NFP is to become a part of all marriage preparation programs.
  • Instruction in our high schools, the upper grades of Religious Education classes, and RCIA classes should clearly teach the immorality of those forms of sexual behavior condemned by the Church, including contraception.

17. In closing, I would like to quote from an article by Roberta Roane that appeared in the National Catholic Reporter. She began by asserting: “Yes, I was alive and fertile in 1968. I was 19 and I knew the Pill was a gift from God and ‘Humanae Vitae’ was a real crock. The Pill was going to eliminate teenage pregnancy, marital disharmony and world population problems…” After recounting her odyssey of bearing three children while switching from the Pill, to the IUD, to condoms, she continues:

“Finally, my husband and I reached a turning point. At a very low point in our marriage, we met some great people who urged us to really give our lives to the Lord and be chaste in our marriage.

“That blew our minds. We thought it meant ‘give up sex.’ That’s not what it means. It means respecting bodily union as a sacred act. It meant acting like a couple in love, a couple in awe, not a couple of cats in heat. For my husband and me, it meant NFP … and I won’t kid you, it was a difficult discipleship. NFP and a chaste attitude toward sex in marriage opened up a new world for us. It bonded my husband and me in a way that is so deep, so strong, that it’s hard to describe. Sometimes it’s difficult, but that makes us even closer. We revere each other. And when we do come together, we’re like honeymooners.

“Sad to say, I was past 35 when I finally realized that the Church was right after all. Not the grab-your-sincerity-and-slide Church of Charlie Curran, but the real Church, the Church we encountered in the Couple to Couple League, the Catholic Church. The Church is right about contraception (it stinks), right about marriage (it’s a sacrament), right about human happiness (it flows — no, it floods when you embrace the will of God). It gave us depth. It opened our hearts to love.” [17]

Roberta Roane is merely echoing what St. Paul said many centuries ago:

“Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a great price. Therefore, glorify God with your body!” [18]

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Endnotes

1. Genesis 1:27. Scripture always considers children a blessing (Psalm 127:3) and barrenness a disgrace (Luke 1:25)

2. Genesis 2:18 3. Mark 10:8,9

4. John F. Kipley develops this theme in Birth Control and Christian Discipleship, CCL, Cincinnati, 1994

5. “Theology of the Body Talks,” Wednesday Audience, March 5, 1980

6. The initial meaning of intercourse is an “exchange of thoughts.” In Shakespeare’s day it was customary to use the verb to know as a euphemism for having sexual relations. Conceive still applies to both sexual and verbal communication: “She conceived her first child.” / “I can’t conceive how that happened!”

7. Isaiah 62:5

8. Ephesians 5:25

9. “Humanae Vitae,” No. 12

10. John F. Noonan, in his landmark study, “Contraception” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), detailed the history of contraceptive practice from ancient times to the present. He documented that from the Didache (A.D. 80) to the Lambeth Conference of 1930, all Christian denominations, without exception, considered contraception intrinsically immoral.

11. In an article that appeared in U. S. News & World Report (July 1, 1996, p. 57), prominent anthropologist Lionel Tiger blames many of today’s problems on the widespread use of the Pill, beginning in the ’60s: “As happens frequently, technology (contraception, in this case) has generated an unexpected result: more abortions, more single-parent families, more men abandoning their role as good providers and a higher divorce rate.”

12. Adapted from “Good Work,” The Dorothy Day Book (Templegate)

13. Pope Gregory the Great reprimanded the bishops of his day for being weak shepherds because they failed to speak up when it was their duty: “Pastors who lack courage hesitate to proclaim openly what they should, out of human respect. As the voice of Truth tells us, such leaders are ‘mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence as the wolf appears.’ ” (PL 77:30)

14. “Humanae Vitae,” No. 13

15. Studies vary on the divorce rate for couples using NFP. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that it’s 5%, while the Family of the Americas says that it is less than 2%.

16. Revs. Richard Hogan and John LeVoir have written a commentary on John Paul II’s theology of the body, in “Covenant of Love,” Ignatius Press (1992). For a simplified version of John Paul’s audience talks, Monsignor Vincent Walsh has published “The Theology of the Body” (Key of David Publications). And Christopher West, formerly director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Denver (see www.theologyofthebody.net), has some excellent audio commentaries on the same topic.

17. National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 31, 1986

18. 1 Corinthians 6:19,20

Babies Made to Order

IVF and the Meaning of the Family

LONDON, MAR. 2, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Artificial methods of conceiving children are forcing courts and society to rethink their concepts about the family.

Initially, in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques were thought of as being an aid to help childless couples overcome their impediments to childbearing. But once the link was broken between a couple’s marital relations and the procreation of new life, the result has been a breakdown in relations between parents and children.

An infertile father?

The Guardian newspaper of England reported Feb. 20 on the case of a British man who was unable to father children, as a result of cancer. A couple of years ago “Jon” went to a clinic where he signed the forms to authorize the use of anonymous donor sperm and IVF to enable his girlfriend “Debbie” to have a child.

The first attempts at conceiving were a failure and the two of them split up. Later on, Debbie, by then living with another man, tried again with some of the remaining fertilized ova and this time the IVF was successful, leading to a daughter, “Chloe.” Jon has never seen Chloe and is engaged in a series of legal battles to gain parental rights.

Jon wasn’t present at the moment of conception, nor is his name on Chloe’s birth certificate. However, he is the legal father because of his signature on the consent form for the IVF treatment. Jon went to the high court and the court of appeal in an attempt to gain access to Chloe and to be given parental responsibility for the child he considered his daughter.

He set a precedent as the first man to be confirmed by the courts as the father of an IVF and donor-sperm baby because of his signature on a form. But the courts have ruled that he should not meet Chloe until she is 3 years old, and until then all he can do is send her a present and some cards several times a year.

In one of the rulings, Judge Mark Hedley commented that “at some stage this child has to come to terms with the fact that she has a biological male progenitor of whom she can know nothing, a legal father with whom she has no contact, and quite likely, a male figure who is acting as her father and is the only one she has known as such. What effect this will all have can only be a matter of speculation.”

Fathers stand in for their sons

Another way in which familial relations are being distorted is when fathers take the place of their adult sons in IVF treatments. The Observer reported Nov. 19 on how British women are being impregnated with sperm donated by the father of their infertile partner. The paper quoted “senior medical figures” as confirming that this practice, though unusual, was now regularly performed in British clinics.

The procedure makes a father’s son his biological half brother and a child’s biological father his or her grandfather.

Psychiatrists warned of the impact such treatment might have on a child and its family. “It may change every single relationship within the family,” said Dr. Samantha Gothard, at London’s St. Anne’s Hospital.

This practice is not limited to Britain. A doctor at a maternity hospital in Japan has acknowledged inseminating wives with the sperm of the fathers of their infertile husbands in at least nine cases, five of them successful, the Washington Post reported Nov. 17. Another doctor said he had performed the procedure twice, with one successful pregnancy.

Surrogate mothers

In cases where it is the wife who cannot conceive, the solution proposed by some is surrogate mothers. The Sunday Times of Jan. 28 noted that “rent-a-womb” agencies are increasingly common in the United States. This has enabled British couples to pay for the services of surrogate mothers who simply sign forms in hospital immediately after giving birth to allow the buyers automatically to be recognized as parents without formally having to adopt the baby.

This burgeoning trade came under examination due to the scandal of Judith and Alan Kinshaw, from Wales, who paid £8,000 for 6-month-old twins they had spotted on an American Web site. The babies were later taken into care by government authorities after it was revealed that they had already been sold to another couple by a baby broker.

The Kinshaw case showed the legal perils of adoption, which can be avoided by hiring a surrogate mother. Prices charged by the American women range from £12,000 to £20,000 depending on whether they use their own or a donor egg, the Sunday Times said. The British couples pay around £50,000 for a total package which includes the cost of creating IVF embryos using their sperm and eggs, counseling and legal fees.

They select a surrogate mother from a catalogue. After the pregnancy has been established they return home, then fly back nine months later to pick up the baby, which under the new law, is simply signed over to them as parents.

Another method used by British couples is to buy ova from the United States, in order to get around the ban on trade in human eggs in the United Kingdom. A BBC report Feb. 16 detailed how in the past two years the number of couples willing to make the trip to America and pay up to $5,000 for an egg has tripled.

In the United Kingdom, where the practice of egg buying is illegal, couples can wait several years for a suitable donor to become available.

Information on donors in the United States, including pictures and educational details, is posted on Internet by agencies. Interested couples can search this information and select a donor before flying out to America to have the egg implanted.

The BBC reported that critics of the U.S. system have questioned the ethics of the egg market. They say it encourages couples to try to engineer the perfect baby. Certainly, the agencies themselves are quite open about the desire to give the new child the best genetic start in life.

IVF and Same Sex Families

Another way in which IVF is challenging the concept of a family is its use by lesbians. The Spanish paper El Mundo reported Oct. 8 that some estimate that up to 75% of the single women who undergo IVF in the country are lesbians. Homosexual activists say about 375 children are born to lesbians in Spain each year by means of IVF.

Figures from the Spanish Fertility Society indicate that about 500 single women go through IVF treatments annually. Many of these women come from other countries, wishing to take advantage of liberal laws in Spain. A doctor at one clinic calculated that some 26% of single women patients were foreigners.

In their rush to “produce” children, adults seem to have forgotten about the consequences this will have on the new lives they are bringing into the world. What sort of family structures will all this lead to? We can only guess at the difficulties these kids will have in adapting to their brave new world.

Cohabitation:”Training for Divorce”

How Separation Helped Bring a Couple Together

BALTIMORE, Maryland, MAR. 13, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Steve and Terrie Nelson never planned to “live in sin.”

They grew up in the same Baltimore parish, St. Thomas More, dated as high school seniors and all through college. After graduation, they moved back with their parents and plunged into their new careers, Terry in nursing and Steve in computers.

But after several months, things changed. Steve, stressed with living at home, wanted his own place but needed a roommate to share expenses. Terrie, fed up with the roommate scene since college, suggested they move in together. Steve agreed.

They rented an apartment and thus joined the more than 4 million American couples, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, who cohabit, that is, live together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. “It was mostly for convenience,” admits Steve, in an article in the National Catholic Register

When they went to their parish to register for the sacrament of marriage, the deacon who was helping them fill out forms noticed they lived at the same address.

The deacon, Tom Mann, notified the pastor, Monsignor Victor Galeone, who had recently finished a set of parish guidelines for cohabiting couples seeking marriage.

“Cohabiting is far from harmless,” says Monsignor Galeone. “Did you know that sociological studies show that living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce — by as much as 50%? Former cohabiters have higher levels of conflict, abuse and violence, plus overall lower levels of happiness.” Cohabitation, he contends, is “training for divorce.”

In his parish, he says, cohabiting couples who continue to live together must get married “in a small, quiet ceremony without flowers, music or gowns. Marriage is a couple’s natural and canonical right, but unless they separate and live apart, there’ll be no big traditional wedding. The big wedding would be a false sign.”

When Deacon Mann broke the news to Terrie and Steve, Terrie cried. Mann explained not only the sinful nature of cohabitation, but also its grave sociological risks. The couple said they needed time to think. They left the deacon’s office in stunned silence, carrying some literature about the dangers of cohabitation.

There are those who disagree with Monsignor Galeone’s and Deacon Mann’s position — and, indeed, with the magisterium’s — that cohabitation is intrinsically harmful. Secular marriage specialists often claim cohabitation can be, and often is, helpful. In fact, they say, with the 50% divorce rate, it’s a popular assumption that a “trial marriage” makes good sense.

So says Marshall Miller, who founded the national nonprofit organization called the Alternatives to Marriage Project with his domestic partner, Dorian Solot. Their organization is located in Massachusetts.

“The vast majority of couples we’ve talked to,” says Miller, “say that cohabitation was a really smart decision for them, for any number of reasons, including financial. … Living with someone is a way of getting to know what they are really like.”

They did acknowledge that the research is against them, but they insist, “Research shows that those who choose not to live together first tend to have more conservative views and are less likely to see divorce as an option. Therefore, that group has a lower divorce rate as a result of their values, not because they didn’t live together.”

Other marriage specialists hold that good marital communication skills are more important than whether or not the couple cohabits. Diane Sollee, LSW, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couple Education in Washington, D.C., wouldn’t see a need to advise a cohabiting couple to separate. “They won’t learn the necessary skills by being apart.”

Monsignor Galeone disagrees. “These positions evade the real issues,” he says. “These experts are putting the cart before the horse. The reality is that sexual communications pre-empt, forestall and overshadow the development of solid verbal skills.”

After their meeting with Deacon Mann, Steve and Terrie talked, wrestled with their consciences, and went over and over the literature he’d given them.

They surfed the Web and read recent sociological studies from several major secular universities, including “The Marriage Project” from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The findings were dismal. Cohabiters who married had substantially more divorce, instability, conflict, violence — and the women and children were always on the losing end. The Rutgers’ researchers concluded, “Living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce.”

It was an emotional time, remembers Terrie. “It’s a shock when you realize you’re doing wrong, especially when you didn’t think you were,” she said.

It was the scholarly evidence that initially convinced Steve and Terrie; then prayer and Scripture study converted their hearts. Love for each other and the desire to help each other do the right thing made them separate and put their sexual relationship on hold.

Terrie moved back into her parents’ home. “It was hard,” she remembers, “really hard.” Steve stayed at the apartment and the couple scooted their wedding date forward to May.

They spent five months living separately, going through marriage preparation, material on marital communication skills and a Pre-Cana weekend. They reflected, thought and dialogued more deeply than they’d ever done before, and explored their understanding of commitment, covenant and sacramental marriage.

“We ended up being glad we separated,” says Steve. “Because it was during that time that we really became best friends and learned to be intimate in nonsexual ways.”

They also discovered and fell in love with the Catholic view of sexuality and the necessity of marriage. Currently, they are using natural family planning.

James Healy, director of the Center for Family Ministry in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, and author of the “Couple’s Handbook” for cohabiting couples, explains that sexuality is a created gift and a spiritual mystery: “The Catholic community believes that persons who give themselves sexually to each other are offering not just an action, but the totality of their very lives. Ultimately, their dignity and honor as human persons can only be protected in a relationship that intends to be permanent, faithful and open to life.”

After a slow start, the five months seem to fly by. Then on May 26, 1990, Deacon Mann heard Steve and Terrie’s exchange of vows and Monsignor Galeone celebrated their nuptial Mass in a fine traditional Catholic wedding — complete with all the lace and flowers.

Artificial Reproductive Techniques (ART)

Artificial methods of reproduction have been in use for animals and plants for a long time now. Men have used these methods to obtain better breeds of cattle and horses, for example.

Some have argued that since science and technology have given us the ability to manipulate nature that way, why can we not apply the same principles to helping infertile couples achieve satisfying their desire to have a baby?

Yet we do know, deep within us, that humans are not like other animals.

There are things that some animals do that we do not, or at least know we should not (such as rape and cannibalism). In the same way, there are some things that we can do to other animals that we cannot do to humans. This is because there is something very different about us, something that sets up apart from other animals – we are made in the image and likeness of God!

As embodied persons, we express the spiritual reality of God’s image, of His love, in and through our physical bodies.  When a married couple engages in the marital act, they make visible in a special way the eternal exchange of life-giving love that is found in the communion of the Most Holy Trinity.

There are two important points we can gather here:

  1. When a married couple engage in sexual intercourse, they proclaim to each other God’s love, in and through their bodies [1] – a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. Take away any of these components and it fails to properly reflect God’s love. So for example, when a couple chooses to use contraception to actively prevent a pregnancy from resulting from their sexual union, they fail to express God’s love as they should.
  2. Since God is life-giving love, the “one-flesh” union of the bodies of the married couple has the capacity to make visible that reality in the new life (a “new flesh”, so to speak) that may arise from that union, a baby, if He so wills. Therein lies the deep beauty and dignity of the human person, of sexual intercourse and of married love as God has deigned.

Thus because a baby is so special, he should only be conceived as a direct result of the love of his parents made visible in and through their bodies, in the marital act. He deserves no less. He is to be “begotten” through the loving union of his parents, not “made” in the laboratory through manipulation by scientists, even though his parents may have provided the “raw material” for his conception in the petri dish.

A married couple can have the right to engage in the marital act, but no one has the “right” to another person, or in this case, a child. Every child should be regarded as a gift, not an object of desire.

Once we lose sight of that dignity of every human person at the beginning of his existence, once we see him as an object of desire rather than as the fruit of married love, other abuses can, and have in fact, set in.

For example, because each batch of egg collection can number many, even up to 20 or more for some women, “surplus” embryos that have been created in the laboratory are put in deep freeze “for future use”, either in case they are needed should earlier attempts at conception fail, or for embryo experimentation.

In addition, embryos are now almost routinely screened for defects before they are put back into the wombs of their mothers. Does that reflect God’s “unconditional love”? Or does it say something like “I desire to have you, baby, but I want to make sure you are free of defects, as far as I can help it?”

Having discussed the immorality of artificial reproductive techniques (ART) such as IVF, we must still address the anguish of couples who want to have babies but are unable to.

In actual fact, there are some good, effective and morally acceptable methods that married couples can use to try to achieve pregnancy, such as the Billings Ovulation Method (developed in Melbourne, Australia. See www.woomb.org) and Naprotechnology (developed in Omaha, USA. See www.naprotechnology.com).

Even if a married couple tries these methods and is unable to conceive for some reason or other, it might be an occasion for them to live out God’s love in other ways, such as adopting children from families unable to care for them, or providing assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children. God’s love knows no bounds. We just need to have that faith in Him, that His plan for us will work to the glory of His name.

[1] “This mystery sinks its roots precisely in the beginning, that is, in the mystery of the creation of man, male and female, in the image of God, called from the beginning to be the visible sign of God’s creative love.” – Pope John Paul II, General Audience of 4 July 1984