Reproductive medicine grows ever more disturbing.
In 1978, when doctors introduced Louise Brown, the first “test tube” or in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby, to the world, the international media hailed the event as something just short of the definitive answer to infertility. In Time magazine, Dr. Robert Edwards—one of the brains behind Baby Louise’s birth and the acknowledged godfather of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) industry it spawned—boasted: “This is the first time we’ve solved all the problems at once. We’re at the beginning of the end—not the end of the beginning.”
Now, more than three decades later, a critical look at the direction of the ART industry’s agenda and actions leaves Catholic observers with several troubling ethical and medical questions that might be summed up as: “Where will it all end?”
Coming precisely one decade after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, the initial Catholic response to Baby Louise was ambiguous. Just days before being named Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani expressed his “best wishes to the baby,” suggesting that the parents may “have great merit before God for what they have decided on and asked the doctors to carry out.”
Many Catholic scholars, scientists, and laypersons adopted sentiments similar to those of the pope, only without the helper verb, “may.” Unencumbered by meaningful opposition, the ART industry, a consortium of researchers, medical school professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and others, formed an unofficial alliance with the secular media and quickly evolved into a formidable and profitable presence worldwide.