Unbearable: Why Did The Pope Bother With A Conference On Infertility?

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Having a child is usually a happy time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, as we wait longer to have children, infertility and trouble conceiving can become a part of the family making process. Unbearable addresses these difficulties.

It’s an exciting time for those struggling with infertility. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that new stem cell advances may give hope for women trying to conceive. Scientists believe that they may be able to rejuvenate a woman’s egg supply, making it easier to bear children later in life. Unfortunately, there’s one person who doesn’t want you to go anywhere near this exciting new medical discovery or any of its kind: The Pope.

I know that I’m pretty late to the party. All this week, IVF advocates have been speaking out against The Pope’s comments about artificial procreation. At the Vatican’s conference on infertility, Pope Benedict XVI seemed to double down on the Church’s disapproval of fertility treatments.

In the past Pope Paul VI said that there is an “inseparable connection, willed by God, and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.” Basically that children should only be born through sex between two married adults, not through “man’s initiative,” or a medical procedure.

Now Benedict is adding to the charges, warning infertile couples seeking reproductive assistance as well as medical professionals against “the arrogance of taking the place of the Creator.” He decried fertility specialists against seeking out easy profits, insulting a science that centers around helping determined adults bring new life into the world.

I’m not going to take time arguing against the Pope’s hateful comments. And let me be clear, as a woman who knows and loves multiple children born through in vitro fertilization, I consider his remarks hateful. They state that there is something wrong with these children, something missing because they weren’t conceived in the way the Church wishes they would’ve been.

I’m not going to argue because I’m well aware that my stance would have very meaning to the head of the Catholic Church. After all, I’m not even a practicing Catholic (though he won’t be winning me over with this type of rhetoric).

I am going to ask one very simple question, what was the point of this conference? Why did the Church bother to spend three days talking about infertility diagnosis and treatment if they’re sole purpose was tell everyone, “Too Bad”?

After all, the Church’s main battle is against IVF, but their statements point to any medical intervention on problematic. Artificial insemination, a more popular and less expensive procedure that normally precedes IVF, also occurs outside of the marriage bed. Basically, the only Pope-approved action for a fertility specialist would be prescription medication to correct hormone issues in women. My OB-GYN can give me those without ever sending me to an expensive specialist. And those only help if you’re having trouble ovulating. For a woman like me whose had an ectopic pregnancy (proving that I’m releasing eggs), medications like Clomid would be useless.

So why get everyone together to discuss a field of medicine that you don’t support in any way? Was the Catholic Church trying to shame infertile couples who seek help?

When it comes to birth control, most Catholic women simply ignore the Church’s teachings in favor of reliable contraception. It’s possible that the Pope’s newest foray into reproductive health will be met with the same indifference. Women might shrug their shoulders and decide that God can’t possibly punish them for wanting a baby.

The Vatican is currently calling for more medical research into ethical approaches to infertility. It’s amusing because they shun current, effective medical solutions. The Pope wants more medical research, but he thinks fertility professionals are arrogant and only in it for a profit. It’s a contradiction of terms that only goes to show how useless this little get together was from the start.

When it comes to reproductive medicine, it looks like the Church has again proven that it’s more concerned with ideological rigidity than actually helping its flock face real problems.