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Each Life has Immeasurable Value from the Moment of Conception

Dad and child

WASHINGTON - Each person’s life is a unique gift and has immeasurable value from the moment of conception, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, and it is for that precise reason that the Catholic Church cannot condone procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) that result in a loss of life at a massive scale. In response to the growing attention to assisted reproductive technologies, Bishop Burbidge, as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, spoke about the gift of life. Recognizing the desire to have children is good and given the challenges many couples face, Bishop Burbidge called for greater focus on ethical treatments addressing the root causes of infertility. Additionally, other approaches that may be sought by some couples seeking to expand their families, such as foster care and adoption, should be offered more support. The chairman’s full statement follows: 

“The national conversation in the news about laws related to in vitro fertilization and other technologies creates an opportunity and a necessity to speak about protecting the gift of life itself. Each of our lives has immeasurable value from the moment of conception. In this way, we know that the deeply-rooted desire to bring about new life by having children is good. As priests and bishops, we grieve with and accompany in hope and love the increasing number of families suffering with an experience of infertility. We also encourage restorative, often-overlooked, treatments that can help to address the root causes of infertility.

“It is precisely because each person’s life is a unique gift that we cannot condone procedures that violate the right to life or the integrity of the family. Certain practices like IVF do both, and they are often not effective even for their own purposes.

“Children have a right to be born to their married mother and father, through a personal act of self-giving love. IVF, however well-intended, breaches this bond and these rights and, instead, treats human beings like products or property. This is all the more true in situations involving anonymous donors or surrogacy. This of course does not mean that our brothers and sisters who were conceived by IVF are somehow ‘less than’ anyone else. Every person has immeasurable value regardless of how he or she was conceived – and that applies, absolutely, to all children created through IVF, the majority of whom have not been and may never be born.

“The fact is that, in the IVF industry, many embryos are never transferred to a mother’s womb, but are destroyed or indefinitely frozen, and, of those who are transferred, only a fraction survive to be eventually born. All told, there are millions of human beings who have been killed or potentially permanently frozen by this industry. This cannot be the answer to the very real cross of fertility challenges. In efforts to bring about new life, we cannot turn our face from the many more lives that are cut short and extinguished in the process.”

Bishop Burbidge was joined by three other bishop chairmen in a letter to the U.S. Senate on February 28, opposing the Access to Family Building Act and similar legislation that would greatly widen the use of various problematic assisted reproductive technologies nationwide. For more on infertility, including ethical restorative reproductive medicine and research, see

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