Christian Ethics on Human "Egg Donations"

av0cada's picture

One night, I was perusing Craigs List when I came across an ad for female egg donors. The compensation was pretty good for going to the hospital every so often and knowing you're helping a couple form a family - and very good for a poor university student like me.

Yet what does the Bible say on this issue? The closest analogy I found was in the Old Testament where Sara made her handmaid, Hagar, bear a child for Abraham in her name... The result was devastating for all involved - partly because of the slave society and the primogeniture times they lived in. Historically, today's Israel and Palestine conflict is said to be traced back to the moment of Hagar's conception.

But child-conceiving efforts seem to take a more positive reception in today's Western culture that embraces individuality more than family values. And biblically, they seem to fall in the gray category because female egg donors can anonymously donate their eggs without fornicating or committing adultery per se because the process itself is surgical in nature. Plus, they say they feel "fulfilled" helping a sterile couple to bear children.

So I'm interested to know: what are your thoughts on this? And what would God's thoughts be in light of His Word?


Maria Smith's picture

From a Catholic perspective...

I found the following that may be of interest from a Catholic perspective from St Anthony’s Mesenger at:

When couples first consult endocrinologists and fertility specialists, a variety of diagnostic examinations and tests are performed to determine, if possible, the root cause of the problem. Initial treatment options are sometimes labeled low-tech, though they can be costly and not without significant side effects. Men are advised to wear looser underwear, to adopt healthier eating habits and to exercise and rest more consistently. All of these impact sperm production.

In addition to healthier diets, exercise and rest, women often require one or more series of hormone treatments (to stimulate ovulation) and possibly corrective surgery (to remove scar tissue or to reposition reproductive organs). Since infertility generally is not considered a disease or a life-threatening illness, these costly procedures frequently are not covered by a couple’s health insurance.

All of these initial options are sanctioned by the Church, since none interferes with or substitutes for conjugal lovemaking. Even use of the birth control pill is morally acceptable, provided it is done to regulate the woman’s cycle in an attempt to foster conception. If these preliminary efforts fail, however, a couple is then faced with more invasive and sophisticated technological options.

The Catholic position is that each and every act of sexual intercourse must contain or reflect two core meanings: 1) two-in-one-flesh intimacy (the unitive meaning) and 2) an openness to the possibility of conceiving new life (the procreative meaning). Gathering sperm--most often done through solitary sex (masturbation)--and then injecting it into the woman with a syringe or catheter seems to interrupt or intrude upon the couple’s intimacy, which sexual lovemaking symbolizes. So too with in vitro fertilization. When one surgically retrieves eggs from the woman, mixes them with semen in the lab and then injects them into the woman, the laboratory seems to have superseded the couple in this act of conception.

The child to be conceived has moral rights and dignity as well. In addition to the unitive and procreative meanings of the sex act, the Catholic Church also focuses on the inherent and abiding dignity of the person who will be conceived and the stability of the marriage and nuclear family in which she or he is to be nurtured. In a section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church entitled "The gift of a child" (# 2373-2379) we find quotes from the moral arguments found in Donum Vitae:

"A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The ‘supreme gift of marriage’ is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged ‘right to a child’ would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right ‘to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his [her] parents,’ and ‘the right to be respected as a person from the moment of conception’" (# 2378).

Catholic Moral Teachings forbid Third Parties:

If this is the Catholic Church’s official stance on homologous procedures, those which use only the couple’s own sperm, ova and uterus, it is not difficult to see why the Church also asserts that heterologous procedures are even less morally acceptable. Add to the reproduction process a third party--whether donor ova, donor sperm or a surrogate mother (in whose uterus this artificially conceived embryo will grow to term)--and one can say, in some sense, that the couple are no longer procreating their own offspring. Medical science is doing it for them, with or without their biological contribution, certainly not requiring their two-in-one-flesh lovemaking at all.

Some infertile couples as well as a number of Catholic and Protestant pastors and scholars respectfully disagree with the Catholic Church’s prohibition of in vitro fertilization using the couple’s own sperm and egg and even artificial insemination of the husband’s sperm. They believe that, as long as science and technology are being used to assist a loving, committed married couple to conceive their own biological or genetic child, this ought to be viewed as medical help, not as unwarranted interference. Many of these same critics uphold the official Catholic position, however, when it comes to heterologous (third-party) materials.

How might a husband or wife feel, knowing that the child he or she is helping to raise is genetically part of one’s spouse, but not at all of one’s own flesh and blood? It would be ideal to say that this would leave no psychic scar, that one’s male or female ego could cope well with this. After all, stepparents and adoptive parents do it all the time. But in those situations the children are already here, alive and well. We adopt them or take them under our wing because they need a mom or a dad. Is there a difference in saying that we will create such a child, one who is, at best, only half of our marriage and half from an anonymous sperm or ovum donor?

So too, in the short time since surrogate motherhood has been legal, court cases have arisen when a woman who donated ova and volunteered or rented her womb later wants to keep the baby and negate the surrogacy agreement. What are her maternal rights, particularly if the child is 50 percent genetically hers? How much of maternal bonding is psychological as opposed to biological, hormonal and inherent in the very process of bearing a child?

These are the kinds of questions which cause many ethicists, Catholic and otherwise, to challenge the wisdom of heterologous reproductive technologies. Some believe these are not insurmountable questions. Others are convinced that they are serious enough to prohibit morally all heterologous artificial inseminations and in vitro fertilizations.


I do not know if this helps answers any of your questions or not. My personal feelings on the matter is that we cannot play God. IT is not the natural order of things to manipulate and create a life unnaturally. Maybe God wanted the childless couple to remain as such for a reason, who are we to interfere? To preserve a life is one thing as far as medical advances go, but to clone or create in a dish to me is playing along side of Dr. Frankenstein. I am sorry if I have offended any as this was not my intent and am only giving my opinion.

Yours in Christ,
CCEL Hostess

Yours in Christ,
Maria 玛丽亚
CCEL Hostess