And the rights of the child?

The judges' consensus to heterologous artificial insemination.

Past April 1st the European Court of Human Rights, with seat in Strasbourg ruled that the “Ban on using sperm and ova donation for in vitro fertilization “is unjustified” and “violates” the rights of not to be discriminated (as set out in Art. 14), and the right to respect family life (Art. 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The sentence was issued after two married Austrian couples suffering from infertility appealed in the year 2000. They only way they had to procreate was to resort to in vitro fertilization or donated sperm and eggs. The Austrian law however forbids this practice. Also the Constitutional Court had ruled out this possibility in 1998 – when the petitioners lodged an application for the review of the sentence – on the grounds that the ban envisaged in the national law complied with ECHR’s principles. The Strasbourg Court now ruled that the couples were right and that the claims of the Austrian government are “unconvincing”. The sentence is due to undergo evaluation by the Committee of Ministers (the EU body with sovereign powers), which is called to draft the modalities of its implementation with the Austrian government (exception made for further appeals, as was the case for the crucifix in Italy). Follows the reflection of moral theologian Marco Doldi from Italy.The gift of life, which God the Father and Creator entrusted to man, calls us to acknowledge our unparalleled value and be responsible for it. This fundamental principle must be placed at the centre of the reflection in order to clarify and solve the moral problems raised by artificial interventions on the newborn and on procreation processes. Ever-more effective therapeutic resources are accompanied by the possibility of developing new powers, with unpredictable consequences on human life from the beginning to the initial stages. In the delicate field of procreation urgent calls are being made for the safeguard of the values and rights of the human person. These appeals are made not only by the faithful. They also come from those who recognize the Church’s mission to the service of the civilization of love and of life. Church Magisterium is not related to a specific area of experimental sciences. Indeed, after having acknowledged research and technology advances, she intends to propose, in virtue of her own evangelical mission, the moral doctrine, which responds to the dignity and to the integral vocation of the human person. In heterologous fertilization human conception is achieved through the infusion of gamets of at least one donor other than the spouses. Heterologous artificial fertilization is contrary to the unity of marriage, to the dignity of the spouses, to the vocation proper to parents, and to the child’s right to be conceived and brought into the world in marriage and from marriage. Respect for the unity of marriage and for conjugal fidelity demands that the child be conceived in marriage; the bond existing between husband and wife accords the spouses, in an objective and inalienable manner, the exclusive right to become father and mother solely through each other. Recourse to the gametes of a third person, in order to have sperm or ovum available, constitutes a violation of the reciprocal commitment of the spouses and a grave lack in regard to that essential property of marriage which is its unity. Heterologous artificial fertilization violates the rights of the child; it deprives him of his filial relationship with his parental origins and can hinder the maturing of his personal identity. The donation of ovum or sperm it brings about and manifests a rupture between genetic parenthood, gestational parenthood and responsibility for upbringing seriously harming the newborn’s right to acknowledge his personal identity, not only in genetic and biological terms since it deprives him of his filial relationship with his parental origins. It objectively deprives conjugal fruitfulness of its unity and integrity. it offends the common vocation of the spouses who are called to fatherhood and motherhood, who have both a physical and a spiritual dimension. Such damage to the personal relationships within the family has repercussions on civil society. The desire to have a child and the love between spouses who long to obviate a sterility which cannot be overcome in any other way constitute understandable motivations; but subjectively good intentions do not render heterologous artificial fertilization conformable to the objective and inalienable properties of marriage or respectful of the rights of the child and of the spouses. The Magisterium’s intervention in this field is part of its mission of promoting conscience formation, teaching the truth that is in Christ, whilst declaring and authoritatively confirming the moral principles embedded within human nature itself.

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