In-vitro (literally 'in glass') fertilization is a process where eggs and sperm are united outside the body in an effort to conceive children.
It was developed in the 1970’s and is sometimes used by couples struggling with infertility. Today, approximately 300,000 children are born annually, worldwide (60,000 in the US alone) through these techniques. Here is a brief explanation and video of the technology, by a medical group that supports IVF.
The Church supports research into the causes and treatment of fertility problems, including the use of Natural Family Planning and particularly the use of Natural Procreative Technology, which identifies the underlying health problems causing infertility, and attempts to restore natural health (and fertility). Clinicians claim a success rate of up to 80% using NaProTech, depending on the underlying issues.
There are many concerns about the use of IVF and other Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ARTs): they separate the unitive and procreative aspects of sexuality, which is always a grave matter; they require powerful (sometimes harmful) drugs to be given to the woman to hyperovulate; it produces multiple embryos, most of which are frozen or discarded or sometimes selectively aborted; it is expensive (up to $20,000/cycle) and has a low success rate (20-40% is typical); the industry is largely unregulated; and there is some evidence that IVF children are ‘less robust’ than children conceived naturally (see articles at The Daily Mail, Time.com, and CBSNews.com).
The Catholic Church recognizes the pain that fertility difficulties can cause a couple, and the deep desire they have for children. However, the Church insists that every child has the right to be conceived as an act of love between their mother and father - since IVF and other ARTs involve a 3rd party in this most intimate act, and separate the unitive and procreative aspects of married love, they are always objectively wrong, despite the intentions of the couple.
A Catholic Physician Describes Some Problems with IVF
IVF as a Mixed Blessing
Why Would the Church Oppose IVF
Why Would the Church Deny Women the Right to Use IVF
Catholic Church Supports Research to Help Infertile Couples
How Do IVF Babies Turn Out?