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Vatican continues to try to limit access to IVF, promotes a “natural alternative”

VATICAN CITY- 23-25 February 2012. The 18thGeneral Assembly of The Pontifical Academy for Life, a three day conference attended by 200 medical (alleged) professionals and Church representatives. The theme for this year was the Diagnosis and Treatment of Infertility.

On the agenda; NaProTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology), a system proposed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, which is supposed to assist women with infertility issues to achieve pregnancy more successfully than in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  IVF (involving the fertilization of ova outside the woman’s body and the transfer of the resultant zygote to the uterus) assists women with blocked, severely damaged or no fallopian tubes, facilitates the use of a donated ova and can also overcome infertility caused by endometriosis or issues with sperm.

The (alleged) research behind NaPro was done at The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. This institute, which provides a service within the “moral framework” of the Catholic Church, was founded in 1985 by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who is also its Director.

Dr. Thomas Hilgers claims that NaPro’s success rate is two to three times higher than for IVF. If this claim is true NaPro would be a major breakthrough in reproductive health technology and welcomed by doctors and many couples who are unable to conceive naturally.  Yet the NaPro website admits there is no peer reviewed medical or academic literature that supports its approach (in the text under a heading misleadingly titled Peer-Reviewed and Academic Literature That Supports NaProTECHNOLOGY). 


Dr Hilgers with Pope Benedict XVI (in his pre-Pope days) and the late Pope John Paul II

During the Assembly, the Pope told the members of The Pontifical Academy for Life that the field of human procreation seems to be dominated “by scientism and the logic of profit”. Of course NaProTechnology is available on a commercial basis and it is noted that the website www.popepaulvi.com accepts donations such as real estate, jewellery and livestock with tax advantages.

In the context of the Catholic Church’s opposition to virtually every form of reproductive technology, that NaPro has not been accepted by the global medical community and is promoted by the Vatican as part of its arguments against IVF appears suspicious to say the least. Further, previously the current Pope has made statements contrary to accepted science in relation to the effectiveness of condoms in the fight against AIDS, in an attempt to further Catholic agenda. NaPro appears to be another attempt to attach some scientific respectability to conservative religious dogma.

Although many couples benefit from IVF the Catholic Church considers the process immoral and continues to pressure world leaders to ban the treatment.