Catholics still choose IVF to have children despite church prohibitions Religions hold a variety of views toward IVF. Catholicism has one of the strongest negative judgments against the practice. Yet many in the church still use the procedure in order to have children.

Despite church prohibitions, Catholics still choose IVF to have children

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Religious objections to in-vitro fertilization came into focus after the Alabama Supreme Court afforded frozen embryos the same legal protections as children. While religious groups in the U.S. have no specific prohibitions to the procedure, the Catholic Church clearly opposes it. But as NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose reports, many Catholic couples do turn to IVF despite their church's teaching.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: After first meeting while in Catholic high school, Erin and Mickey Whitford dated for 12 years through college, grad school and early into their careers. Three years ago, the Cleveland couple married.

ERIN WHITFORD: We did make a promise to ourselves in front of, like our whole congregation at our wedding that we were going to accept children and that we were going to love them and raise them Catholic. It just seems that our journey is a little different.

DEROSE: Different because Mickey, due to a genetic condition, has lower sperm count.

MICKEY WHITFORD: We had tested the other options as much as we could, and we knew that it was more important for us to bring life into this world than to get the OK from someone on how to do so.

DEROSE: Meaning they knew about the Catholic Church's objection to IVF but decided to use it anyway.

E WHITFORD: We prayed. We talked to each other, talked to our families. We're lucky enough to have three embryos survive. One is obviously inside me now, about to be born in the next month.

DEROSE: Erin and Mickey plan to use the other embryos in the coming years.

WHITFORD: Our intent is solely to bring life into this world. We understand the few points that the church has around separating the conjugal act from the creation of life. And trust us. You know, if things could have been that way, we would have wanted it to be that way as well.

ROBERTO DELL'ORO: Procreation is intrinsic to the physical union of the couple.

DEROSE: Roberto Dell'Oro is a professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and runs the school's bioethics institute. He says one of the Catholic Church's objections to IVF is the manipulation of what should be a natural process.

DELL'ORO: In this case, manipulation of human life for the sake of the desire of a child but one in which the end does not justify the means.

DEROSE: Because IVF usually creates more embryos than the couple needs or wants, Dell'Oro says the church's chief moral objection is what becomes of those extra embryos.

DELL'ORO: The embryos should not be looked at as children. They should, however, be seen as having the promise of life that develops into a child.

DEROSE: A Pew Research survey from last year found that 55% of white, non-Hispanic Catholics say they or someone they know personally have used fertility treatments. And according to an older Pew survey, just 13% of U.S. Catholics believe in vitro fertilization is morally wrong.

HEIDI NIZIOLEK: We got married a little bit later in life, and we both knew right away that we wanted to have children and that we were up against a clock.

DEROSE: More than two decades ago, suburban Minneapolis couple Heidi and Dan Niziolek decided to start a family with the help of IVF.

DAN NIZIOLEK: We wanted children out of love to really bring up and nourish and love and have. And the entire way, it was all about that.

DEROSE: Dan is a lifelong Catholic. Heidi, who's a registered nurse, joined the church when they married. As they began IVF treatments, the couple asked their congregation to pray for them during a difficult time, but they did not ask their priest for approval.

H NIZIOLEK: It really, really kind of makes me feel very nauseated to have people that are not in the medical profession telling people that are going through this process there's something wrong with it.

DEROSE: Their decision to have kids through IVF was deeply shaped, says Dan, by Catholic values.

D NIZIOLEK: And if this isn't about love, if this is not about compassion and the commitment we've made and the joy we've had with our kids, I don't know what's more of a miracle than that.

DEROSE: A blessing for which Dan and Heidi Niziolek say they thank God whenever they think about their now-22-year-old twins. Jason DeRose, NPR News.

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