Right to Life meeting features student witness

At a recent meeting of the university’s Right to Life Club, Notre Dame freshman Camila Salcedo gave a speech about the moral problems of in vitro fertilization and her experience as an IVF baby.

Camila acknowledged that the idea that IVF is contrary to an ethic of life initially seems counterintuitive: “When I first heard that IVF wasn’t pro-life, I was confused. Very, very confused. After all, its purpose is to make babies, right?” Yet after further exploration and research, Camila came to believe that the practice of IVF was never morally permissible.

Her main objections to the practice of IVF were fourfold. First, IVF separates procreation from the marital act. The second problem with IVF is its disregard for the dignity of already-conceived lives—embryos not used are frozen indefinitely, discarded, or used in scientific research. “So, yes, the process normally entails the destruction of many human lives to only give birth to a few or a single life,” she said.

The third problem she raised was that IVF allows for genetic screening before implantation. “This attitude is very contrary to our belief in the value of every human person—no one has the right to decide who will live and who will die based upon a few preferred characteristics.” she said. Fourthly, IVF lends itself to the practice of sperm or ovum donation and surrogate motherhood, both of which are contrary to an ethics of life.

After a discussion of the moral problems inherent in IVF, Camila shared her parents’ story and their decision to have her via IVF. Camila’s parents sought out many remedies for the infertility caused by her mother’s endometriosis, but both hormonal treatments and surgical procedures failed. Though they were not pro-life, something troubled them about IVF, and they only turned to it reluctantly. They created three embryos, and Camila was born from the third one.

Camila always knew that she was an IVF baby, but she didn’t begin to realize the moral implications of the procedure or discuss it with her parents until two years ago. “I knew that the morality of IVF didn’t take away my dignity in any way, and I knew for sure that God loved me the same as any other person. I also knew that God loved my parents infinitely despite them having performed those IVFs and that He was all in in helping them realize the moral wrongs of IVF and helping them heal,” she said.  Although she knew these things, Camilla hesitated to broach such a sensitive subject with her parents: “I wanted to know the story better and I wanted to talk to them about it. But I was just too scared.”

Yet her parents brought up the subject without any prompting. Her mother began to talk more about Camila’s twin brother, who had died in the womb.  Camila’s mother had hardly ever talked about the baby boy before. “I later learned that, after losing him in the womb, she tried to forget him; she felt that not doing so would have been ungrateful for the daughter who did survive,” Camila said. However, Camila’s mother began to form a stronger bond with her deceased child, and as part of the healing process she decided to name the baby, calling him Jose.

Camila emphasized the importance of compassion for couples struggling to conceive, while remaining firm in her stance against IVF.  “Infertility is a heavy burden on many couples, and it is understandable that they want to use all the resources they can so that they can reach their dreams of having children. I understand, and it is rough, and they should hold on to hope … Yet there are means that simply should not be taken, no matter how good the end is.”

Despite the fact that she was created in this manner, Camila Salcedo believes that IVF is morally impermissible. She said: “I was conceived via IVF, but I still don’t support it … I believe in moral truths, and what’s wrong doesn’t become right for me benefitting from it. The ends never justify the means—even if the end was me.”

Natalie Casal is a freshman in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Classics department. If you’d like to talk to her, you can usually find her eating and reading at Taco Bell in the early hours of the morning. Or you could just email her at ncasal@nd.edu.