In 1987 in the document called "Donum Vitae," the Vatican spoke out strongly against various forms of reproductive technologies. Unfortunately, the document received little publicity and the practice of conceiving children artificially mushroomed. In 2008, the Vatican issued "Dignitas Personae," reinforcing the previous teaching and addressing new technologies:
Respect for that dignity is owed to every human being because each one carries in an indelible way his own dignity and value. The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman. Procreation which is truly responsible vis-a-vis the child to be born "must be the fruit of marriage."
Every child born into the world is a special gift no matter how he or she is conceived, but that does not justify using immoral methods to conceive a child. According to Church teaching, artificial insemination by a donor, the use of donor eggs, surrogate mothering, and in vitro fertilization are all violations of the respect for the human person.
It is true that these technologies have brought the joy of parenthood to those who were unable to have children naturally, but at what price. Looking at the darling babies conceived by these methods, it is easy to think that no serious harm was done, but now decades after, the effects are coming into focus. The babies have grown up and are talking about their rights.
A study by Elizabeth Marquardt and associates entitled "My Daddy's Name is Donor" compared children conceived by sperm donation with children adopted at birth and those raised by their biological parents. The authors found that:
"...on average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse."
Many children conceived by donor insemination (DI) are searching for their biological fathers and/or siblings. Because many of sperm donors contributed to a large number of conceptions, the children fear that they could become sexually involved with a half sibling without knowing it.
In a December 2006 article, Katrina Clark writes of her experiences as a DI child of a single mother, who found her biological father on the Internet.
"I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the 'parents' -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his 'donation.' As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?
"Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say.
"I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place."
Using donated sperm is reproductive adultery and although the husband may initially agree, he may come to regret that decision. One donor conceived man writes:
"... my father's parenting style, of keeping emotional distance, may also have been his attempt to deal with his feelings of alienation and inadequacy when daily facing the fact that my brother and I were not 'his.'"
Emotional pain is not the only potential problem associated with artificial methods of conception. In order to assure a conception, doctors often implant more than one embryo and then the parents are left with the choice -- risk premature birth and other problems associated with carrying twins or triplets to term or agree to selective reduction (killing one or more of the unborn babies in the womb). One study found that the risk of having a handicapped child after IVF was 11 percent as compared to 5 percent with natural conception.
A loving God warns his children of unforeseeable dangers. Tragically, few listen.
Dale O'Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of "The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality."