Opinion

November 1, 2011 (HLIAmerica.org) – We are grateful to the medical researchers and medical practitioners who find new remedies and drugs to ease our pains and restore and enhance our health. Yet with every new development in medical science comes the responsibility of using it wisely and according to God’s will. Many people do not acknowledge this. One example was the subject matter of a New York Times article last month, titled: “One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring.”

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The article narrated a woman’s search for her own child’s siblings, all of whom are the offspring of the sperm donor who fathered her child. When she completed her research, she was shocked to find that the man had fathered 149 other children, all of them half-brothers or half-sisters of her child.

An organization has been founded in the United States called “Donor Sibling Registry.” Multiple examples can be found there of men who have fathered dozens and dozens of children — and more. One was father to 70 children. “Every once in awhile he gets a new kid or twins,” a Registry official noted.

The lucrative reproductive technology industry in the United States is largely unregulated. Some countries of the world limit the number of children one man can father, e.g. Britain (10 children per donor), France and Sweden. But not the United States.

As the article in the Times noted, the immediate concern is the possibility of one person infecting many children with a rare disease. The other and perhaps more common concern is the possibility in smaller civic communities of marriages between half brothers and sisters — “accidental incest.” But these are not the only moral considerations. In addition, we have to state that modern reproductive technologies — involving donor eggs and sperm, in vitro fertilization, surrogate mother, etc. — do not accord with God’s plan for the human race. These technologies depersonalize reproduction, turning it into an assembly line process by bringing a third and anonymous party into a marriage as the genetic parent.

Another article in August in the New York Times Magazine raises related concerns. It noted the increasing number of multiple births in our society, especially of twins and triplets. This is due to the use of drugs to increase the number of eggs produced by women and to the implantation of multiple embryos in order to raise the odds of a birth. The article notes that fifty percent of babies conceived through in vitro fertilization are part of a multiple pregnancies, and anywhere from 5-20 percent of pregnancies using fertility drugs turn out to be twins or higher.

The issue raised in the article was the dilemma of many women who end up pregnant with more children then they intended, and turn to abortion as a solution. Many of the women facing this decision are older and find it daunting to think of raising two or three babies at one time, then care for rambunctious teenagers and save enough money to send them all to college.

On the other hand, these women may realize, perhaps belatedly, that twins are special, they are soul mates by nature. One woman confessed: “I just couldn’t sleep at night knowing that I terminated my daughter’s twin brother.” Similar concerns arise in regard to triplets.

The author of the article, Ruth Padawer, cites the views of a social psychologist who argues that the basis for these reproductive dilemmas is the American trait of wanting “limitless choices.” This is a typically American ideal.

“We are in the midst of a choice revolution right now, where we are trying to figure out where the ethical boundaries should be,” declared the scholar.

But it really is not hard to find the ethical boundaries. They coincide with God’s will for us. Every baby is a human being with the God-given right to life. People may not “play God,” choosing that one baby should live while another dies.

I find it sad and disturbing to see how people struggle with trying to find moral and ethical excuses to kill. One physician, in considering the dilemma of choosing between twins, noted in the article that “Ethics evolve with technology.”

While it is true that the application of principles may evolve in the sense that new technologies demand new applications of the principles. But no, basic ethical principles do not evolve with technology, especially not the truth that every life is sacred.

The laws of human nature remain the same, as does the law of our nature and nature’s God.

Father John A. Leies, SM, STD, is a Contributing Writer of HLI America, where this article originally appeared, and is president emeritus of St. Mary’s University. He was formerly head of the Theology Department there. This article was revised from its original publication on September 23, 2011 in Today’s Catholic.

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