VATICAN CITY (CNS): Purposefully destroying fertilised embryos is abortion, even when it is done to increase the chances that at least one foetus in a multiple pregnancy will survive, the Vatican said.
“Embryonal reduction constitutes a selective abortion; in fact, it consists of the direct and voluntary elimination of an innocent human being,” said a declaration from the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The declaration, released on July 13 at the Vatican, was written in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Signed by council president, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the declaration was issued after widespread debate in Italy about the ethical course of treatment for a woman pregnant with eight embryos after taking fertility drugs.
Doctors said it would be unheard for all of the foetuses to survive to birth and, in addition, the pregnancy would seriously jeopardise the mother’s life.
The Pontifical Council for the Family said that while taking fertility drugs is not immoral, the consequences of the treatment often raise ethical questions to which doctors and patients have not given enough attention.
The Church must call for responsibility on the part of doctors who, in treating infertility, resort to the “hyperstimulation” of ovulation, “creating situations which put at risk the life of the mother and of her conceived children”, the declaration said.
When the intended destruction of an embryo is the aim of a procedure as well as when it is a means of treatment, “it always constitutes a serious moral disorder”, the council said.
“The moral prohibition remains even if the continuation of the pregnancy carries a risk for the life or the health of the mother” or of the other foetuses, it said.
“In fact, it is not licit to do harm even with the aim of accomplishing a good,” the declaration said.