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YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – New legislation in Cameroon allowing for artificial means of conception has been condemned by the nation’s Catholic bishops as posing “serious ethical and doctrinal problems.”
The law enacted on June 29 allows for Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR), including artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and gamete and embryo transfer.
On June 29, 2022, the Cameroon parliament voted into law a bill that will allow married and unmarried couples access to medically-assisted reproduction.
The law requires those seeking MAR to be legally married or prove that they have been living as a couple. The couple must also demonstrate that their inability to conceive is due to “a medically diagnosed pathological condition,” or that they are suffering from a congenital disease likely to be transmitted to the child.
The public health minister, Manaouda Malachie, defended the bill, saying it helped families struggling with infertility problems.
“This bill is very important for our families and our country. It will make the child, family and entire society more comfortable,” Malachie told reporters in the capital, Yaoundé.
Lawmakers said the legal framework excluded people who are fertile and medically sound, but who have deliberately refused to procreate, including homosexual couples.
The Catholic bishops in the central African nation said the legislation went against Christian anthropology.
In an Aug. 8 statement signed by the president of the National Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea, the bishops condemned the “artificialization and unacceptable manipulations in the domain of Medically Assisted Reproduction.”
The prelates said bringing forth children is always a thing of joy for parents, and ties in with God’s mission for humanity when He tasked men and women to “go and multiply.”
But the desire for childbearing, according to the bishops, must not lead to disrespect for human dignity.
“The Church understands the suffering of families battered by infertility. That is why the Church encourages research that seeks to prevent such infertility, or to cure it,” the statement said.
“If the desire to procreate is legitimate and biblically justified, it doesn’t legitimize all means of obtaining a child. In other words, the child is no longer a gift from God to be welcomed, but a right that must be obtained or even produced at all costs, and at any price,” the bishops continued.
“The desire for a child cannot justify its production.”
The prelates said MAR violates the dignity of the human person by using the human body as an instrument, posing “serious ethical and doctrinal problems.”
“Catholic doctrine teaches that there is an intrinsic link between sexual intercourse and procreation,” the bishops said, adding that MAR ruptures that link thereby making it “morally illicit and does not conform to God’s plan for human life.”
“The practice of extra-corporal fertilization or in vitro fertilization and transfer of embryos is particularly condemned by the Church. This practice is done in the laboratory and not in the uterus of the woman. It uses the man’s sperms and the woman’s eggs, very often from an anonymous donor. All this manipulation provokes a reproductive overkill, and thus deprives human reproduction of its dignity,” the statement said.
The prelates also said freezing embryos is antithetical to the dignity reserved for the human person, and leads to banks of frozen “orphans.”
They said MAR can create problems of identity for children in situations where the sperm comes from an anonymous donor, or where surrogate mothers are involved. It’s “a serious wound to the child who might end up not knowing his/her biological mother or father.”
“The intervention of assisted reproductive technologies substitutes for the conjugal act as a means of conceiving a child, and thus becomes morally illicit and not in conformity with God’s intention for human life.”
Rather, the church leaders urged couples to “accept the failure of an irremediable sterility” and called on them to “stick to the only valid human substitution procedure, that of adoption of numerous orphans who need a domestic home for their proper growth.”
Although MAR has been practiced in Cameroon for years, there hasn’t been any legal framework regulating the practice until now.
The new legislation lays out the legal framework to guide hospitals conducting or seeking to conduct MAR. It also explains in detail those who are eligible to undergo the practice.
“As a Catholic Christian, I hesitated voting that law,” said Peter Njume, a member of Cameroon’s parliament.
“But the cost of not having a regulatory framework could be significantly higher,” he told Crux.