The Vatican doctrinal statement on human procreation may help people, within and without the Roman Catholic Church, wrestle with the moral and ethical questions raised by new technologies and new techniques. Churches should indeed be addressing their members on these issues. But the statement is mistaken, we think, when it proposes using civil law to impose these views on all people in all nations.
Decisions regarding the use of artificial insemination, prenatal diagnosis that might lead to abortion, test-tube fertilization and embryo transfer are private and personal, matters of conscience, and not an appropriate focus of the police power of the state. For the same fundamental reason, we have argued that the U.S. Supreme Court was correct in defending the right of pregnant women to decide the issue of abortion.
Recent litigation in cases involving surrogate mothers dramatizes the void of law and legal case history for dealing with some of the matters addressed in the Vatican's "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day." But the cases that have become celebrated and have stirred controversy have also seemed to resist the kinds of authoritarian solutions that the Holy See would mandate. Many of the questions raised have no answer beyond that which couples, in their eagerness for parenthood, can give privately to their attending physicians.