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Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius of Laconi
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Selling Our Souls to Trade In Ova, Sperm and Fetal Parts


James V. Schall, S.J. - published on 07/31/15 - updated on 06/07/17

The “arrangement” by which new human lives came into existence was not a product of human ingenuity or science. It was already in existence when men began to think about it. They thought about what was already in place and functioning. Basically, the human race is divided into two sexes, male and female. Both are rational and human. But they do not and cannot do the same thing when it comes to originating new human life. They are complementary; their very difference causes the unity from which new life is born. Though the number of male births is slightly higher than those of females, their numbers are roughly the same. Males tend to die earlier than females.

Any child has first to be begotten of a male and a female component. Male-male, female-female relationships, however contorted, are intrinsically sterile. They cannot be what marriage is. Properly speaking, such relationships have nothing to do with bringing new children into the world so that the world can continue in new life down the ages. Marriage can only exist between a male and a female. Without the possibility of children or relation to them, male and female relations mean nothing in terms of actual consequences in the form of a human child. The word “marriage” in the proper sense can only mean this relationship that results or can result or did result in children.

The Wall Street Journal (July 27, 2015) carried a report of a court case that concerned the “price” of a human ovum provided by young women to “fertility” clinics. The question had to do with whether the price was too little or too much. Evidently it varied between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on expected “qualities” of looks, intelligence, and other expected criterion in the resultant child. The idea that we can put a “price” on selling ova and donor sperm strikes one as a modern form of slave market. Human life should be given and received freely in an atmosphere in which it can flourish for what it is. The very idea of pricing such realities should be sufficient to tell us something is wrong with it.

This “business” of selling human ova, and a pari of providing male sperm donors, would not be feasible unless a technology existed whereby conception outside the womb was possible. The first human baby conceived outside the womb was Louise Brown in Australia in 1978. The effort to produce children outside the womb is itself the product of people thinking that they should have children even when they cannot be conceived naturally.

It is also due to scientific curiosity, and, in many cases, speculations about improving the “quality” of human beings through scientific breeding analogous to racing horses. This idea was already found in Plato. In the Republic, parents were not supposed to know who their children were nor were children to know their parents. The family was seen as an organ of injustice. Often modern reproductive clinics seek to reproduce this sort of anonymity.

However, in any reasonable order, children should know exactly who their parents are, and parents should know that this child is theirs. In fact, with DNA, any child’s parentage can now be exactly identified, something with enormous legal consequences. This possibility allows artificially begotten children to claim support of their real parental origins. Ova and sperm sellers and donors have to think twice about the real consequences of their acts that seem at first sight to involve only passing economics.

Children are begotten outside marriage. Today they can be inseminated outside the womb of a female. Surrogate mothers can also be hired to carry a child that is not hers to termination. This possibility too can cause legal issues as to who is the real or effective mother. In the case of artificial insemination, many female eggs are usually fertilized and implanted, but only a few will survive. This is why we see quintuplets born; sometimes many fertilized eggs remain alive in the womb. But many fertilized eggs are either discarded or frozen. The business of artificial insemination has its origins in efforts to enable presumably childless couples to conceive. The reasoning on this issue seems at first simple enough. We have a “right” to have children. Therefore, if what normally happens does not take place, we can find an alternate way.

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