In a 6-1 ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court sided with the Social Security Administration Friday by denying survivor benefits to twins conceived through in vitro fertilization weeks after their biological father passed away in 2001. The court argued that the twins were not their father’s legal heirs because they were conceived after his death, which legally terminated his marriage to their mother.
At its core, this is a gut-wrenching story. It’s bound to stir up emotions on both sides of the political spectrum, as it highlights some tough realities we as a society must face.
Inasmuch as we must pray for this family, what is truly unpalatable about this entire situation is that a woman, ostensibly under the watchful eye of a medical practitioner, was implanted with the sperm of a man who was already dead.
The Catholic Church teaches this to be morally wrong. And for good reason. According to Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, the Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, in vitro fertilization “undermines the meaning of sex” and “violates the exclusivity of the couple’s marriage covenant.” What in vitro fertilization basically says is that it is “okay to manufacture life in a laboratory as if it were a commodity.”
Now, it may well be the case that this couple – like thousands of other couples – was infertile and that they never intended to undermine the meaning of sex, but as Pope Paul VI wrote in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, “we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions.” There’s no question that those limits were breached in this instance.
Pope Benedict has re-iterated the Church’s condemnation of artificial means of conception. In February, he urged couples to shun the arrogance associated with in vitro fertilization when he told a conference at the Vatican that “the human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, doesn’t consist in a ‘product,’ but in its link to the conjugal act, an expression of the love of the spouses of their union, not only biological but also spiritual.” The lifelong “union of a man and a woman” is “the only worthy place for a new human being to be called into existence.”
Regrettably, I anticipate that legal cases such as this will begin to occur more frequently. We are eschewing the dignity of human life in favor of a false concept of progress and sooner or later we are going to pay for it. As Robert Bork would say, we are slouching towards Gomorrah.