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Studies in Law and Medicine

On In Vitro Fertilization

Americans United for Life published “Studies in Law and Medicine” in the 1970s and 1980s, spotlighting issues pertaining to the human right to life across the bioethics spectrum. As Americans United for Life celebrates our 50th anniversary, we are making these issues available for the first time since their print publication.

On In Vitro Fertilization by Professor Paul Ramsey

Paul Ramsey is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, with a specialization in ethics and social philosophy. In 1972, he published a two-part article on in vitro fertilization in the Journal of the American Medical Association, making him one of the first in-depth researchers on the topic. Ramsey’s judgement is that in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer should not be allowed by medical policy or public policy in the United States—not now, not ever. This article is a written testimony on in vitro fertilization before the Ethics Advisory Board, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, limited to basic ethical and policy considerations that any knowledgeable citizen can understand.  

Ramsey’s four reasons for opposing in vitro as standard practice in the United States are (1) the need to avoid bringing further trauma upon this nation that is already deeply divided on the matter of the morality of abortion, and about when the killing of a human being (at tax expense) can occur; (2) the irremovable possibility that this manner of human genesis may produce a damaged human being; (3) the immediate and not unintended assault this procedure brings against marriage and the family, the immediate possibility of the exploitation of women as surrogate mothers with wombs-for-hire, and the immediate and not unintended prospect of beginning right now to “design” our descendants; and (4) the remote—but still very near—prospect of substituting laboratory generation from the first to last for human procreation. We ought not to choose—step-by-step—a world in which extracorporeal gestation is a possibility.