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"Fetal reduction" cannot be justified.

Vatican--The Pontifical Council for the Family, having been invited to express its position on so-called "fetal reduction," after consulting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (CDF), publishes the following Declaration.

"Today, cases of multiple pregnancies, that is, where the mother's womb is shared by several embryos, have become less rare. These cases normally come about either due to stimulation of the ovaries in cases of infertility, or from use of artificial fertilization, about which the Magisterium has already expressed its opinion (CDF, Donum vitae, 1986).

"We must first of all take account of the difficult and sometimes dramatic situations that such techniques can produce. It is impossible, therefore, that we not call on the doctors to take responsibility when they apply hyperstimulation without the necessary skill and precautions, or apply artificial fertilization techniques, provoking such situations that put both mother and conceived children at risk.

Multiple pregnancies

"As for multiple pregnancies, it is said by some who argue for fetal reduction that these cannot come to term all at once, either due to the spontaneous death of the embryos in the uterus, or due to premature birth of the fetuses without hope of life. In addition, they add that if these unborn come to term together, the obstetric difficulties (and thus the danger for the mother) will be greater. On the basis of this, they conclude that it would be justifiable to select and eliminate some of the embryos in order to save the others, or at least one of them. For this reason, the technique of "fetal reduction" was introduced.

"Here, it is necessary to consider what is happening, because every embryo must be considered and treated as a human person in respect of his or her eminent dignity (CDF, Donum vitae, I, 1). From the first moment of conception the unborn must be accorded fundamental human rights, and above all, the right to life, which cannot be violated in any way. Beyond every confusion and ambiguity, we must therefore affirm that "fetal reduction" is the same as selective abortion. It consists precisely in the direct and wilful elimination of an innocent human being (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 57). It therefore, whether willed as an end or only utilized as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder (John Paul II, ibid,, 62). Given that these are truths accessible to reason alone, the illicit nature of such comportment imposes itself as a norm valid for all people, even nonbelievers (John Paul II, Ibid, 1O1). The moral prescription remains even in the case in which continuing the pregnancy would bring a risk t o the life or health of the mother and of the other brothers and sisters in the multiple pregnancy. It is never licit to do evil, even in view of attaining a good (John Paul II, ibid, 58).

"Human life comes from God and is always his gift, a participation in his life-giving breath (ibid, 39). Fetal reduction, as it is the willful elimination of a human life, cannot be justified, neither on the basis of the principle of the so-called "lesser evil," nor on the basis of that of the double effect. Neither of these can be applied in this case. We must also not underestimate the possibility that the adoption of the technique of fetal reduction could lead toward a eugenic mentality where, through the techniques of prenatal diagnosis, people come to measure the value, of a human life solely according to parameters of normality and "physical well-being" (Ibid," 63), in light of a reduced concept of 'quality of life.'

"May the Lord of Life accompany parents in the fulfillment of their most noble task and sustain them in the commitment to respect the right to existence of the unborn. At the same time, may he guide those who are at the service of life to do everything possible to save the mother and her children. Happily, thanks to major scientific advances over the past few years, there are many cases in which multiple pregnancies have been carried to term successfully. Nonetheless, it is certain that even if due to human limitations we are sometimes forced to only helplessly witness the death of innocent creatures, it can never be morally licit to wilfully provoke death."

(July 12,2000, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President.)
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXVA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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