By Judie Brown
Treating the human body like one would treat a machine is no longer a far-fetched idea, but rather a practice happening among far too many of us. Professor Janet Smith pointed this out when she stated that in the encyclical Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI warned that “we would begin to treat our bodies as though they were machines. We’d no longer have respect for the human person as an integral unity of body and soul, but the body would now be a machine that we can do to whatever we will. Now there is no greater evidence than our use of reproductive technologies, of surrogate motherhood, for instance, and many of these in vitro procedures.”
There are examples of this disregard for the remarkable nature of the human body all around us. One such example is medically assisted procreation—“a generic term for any of a range of techniques that enable infertile couples to have a child.” MAP represents a humane way of suggesting that science can accomplish what nature has failed to do for a couple desiring a child. But as one psychiatrist who treats couples who have failed to acquire a child by such means points out: “MAP is so intrusive—it subjects sexuality to reproduction; some couples break up under the strain.”
The all too common refrains from couples whose efforts to acquire a child technologically range from the woman who said “I wish IVF had never been invented” to the woman who pointed out that using IVF “feels like a raffle—how many tickets do you buy?”
The sad truth is that practices like IVF, surrogate motherhood, and so on relegate our ability to procreate children to the status of animals who reproduce as if in a factory, and remove the marital love from creating a child. Whether modern day couples can accept this or not is the challenge we face, especially if we are striving to restore cultural respect for the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of marriage as designed by God.
To make the point, we need only look at the “surrogacy business” in the United States. Canadian researcher Abby Lippman of McGill University opines: “Americans are so obsessed with consumption and so besotted with this ‘I’m entitled to have a baby’ approach that they prefer to close their eyes to ethical questions.”
This statement actually makes my point. When human beings begin to remove nature from the equation and replace it with science, something will inevitably go wrong. So why is reproductive technology such big business? The answer resides with the attitude that, if someone wants a child, that person is entitled to have a child no matter the cost. Entitlement becomes the overriding attitude.
When someone believes that he or she is entitled to a child, anything that promises the result being sought is fair game. Pope Paul VI was right when he wrote about the fundamental nature of the marriage act. He said: “While uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, [it] also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.”
Today, it would appear that human reason has been replaced by a sinister practice that appeals to those who have not seen the truth that no one is ever entitled to a child. A child, on the other hand, is entitled from the very first instance of his being to be the fruit of his parents’ marital union and to be surrounded by the love and care of his mother and father.
This is why God’s design for procreation is a good. And, by contrast, this is why man’s treatment of the human body as if it were a machine is wrong.
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