Dr. Cudihy on why IVF is a bad idea

My college years occurred during what was arguably the height of the new evangelization led by Pope John Paul II. The saint’s writings on the sanctity of life and gifts of marriage were particularly formative as I was discerning a call to the medical profession and ultimately to the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology.

About seven years later while in an ob/gyn residency training program, it became clear to me that even well read Catholics did not have a good understanding of the issue of in-vitro fertilization or “IVF.” 

Based on my firsthand experience being trained by IVF practitioners, caring for hundreds of patients exploited by the IVF industry, and extensive study of the issue, I have become quite familiar with the extent of the harm done by this industry that markets its procedures as “family building.” 

At the outset, I wish to make it clear I am very sympathetic to the suffering women experience with infertility and have for this very reason dedicated much of my professional life to treating the various causes of this problem. Couples going to IVF clinics are actually responding to a God-given desire for children. Indeed they are there precisely because they are suffering the deprivation of the good of fertility and an absence of that “supreme gift of marriage” as Pope Paul VI described children.  

Couples going to IVF clinics are actually responding to a God-given desire for children.

Of course, each child created in the process of IVF certainly possesses the same human dignity that we all do, even though only a minority of them will survive to birth. Just as a child conceived out of wedlock or even by rape is still fully human and equally deserving of all human rights, so too the children conceived in the Petri dishes of the IVF clinics.

So then, why not IVF?  There are a litany of reasons, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll start with seven of them.


In the words of the well-known Catholic fertility specialist, Dr. Thomas Hilgers “IVF is killing babies to make babies.” A careful assessment of the available data reveals that only about 4% of the human embryos (a.k.a. human children) conceived will survive to birth. Most are intentionally destroyed as these children’s existence is denied while being labeled “fertilized eggs” by those wishing to dispose of them as waste. I’ll never forget hearing an IVF specialist answering a husband’s question about the fate of the extra embryos with a callous “we throw them in the trash.” The co-inventor of IVF, Patrick Steoptoe, literally funded his research with profits he made from performing surgically induced abortions — truly killing babies to make babies. IVF exists because elective abortion on demand existed first. In no way can IVF be considered pro-life.


Human babies in this industry are treated as mere commodities to be produced, sold, and warehoused (in liquid nitrogen freezers).  The embryos are quality graded like an agricultural product with designations such 4AA or 5AB. Increasingly, genetic testing is done to “weed out” the children judged to be genetically inferior or undesirable.  Clearly, the new human life is no longer accepted as a gracious gift from the Divine Creator. Rather, the child himself is now seen as a possession adults have a right to manufacture and acquire upon demand. Legal precedent has already treated these embryos (when frozen) as property to be distributed among divorcees rather than as human beings. As a culture, we have thus reverted back to the disgraceful practice of treating an entire class of human beings as property.


These “excess” human embryos that are not chosen for attempted transfer into a woman’s uterus are now a lucrative source of scientific research material. As many as 96% of the children conceived in this process are intentionally discarded as trash, sold as material for scientific experimentation, placed in freezers, or die in the attempts to establish a successful pregnancy. So soon our society has regressed in this manner too. Because of IVF, we have also revived the shameful practice of experimenting on a group of individuals judged to be subhuman.


Women in particular are mistreated and their human dignity degraded in the process. No woman dreams of someday becoming pregnant via procedures of an IVF clinic. Much like the case of women ending up in abortion clinics, they typically end up there out of desperation, albeit enabled in no small part by contemporary endorsement of the practices.

The physical and emotional harm done to women by the IVF industry is also similar to that of the abortion industry in that such harm is often dismissed and minimized. What the woman desires is to be healed and made whole so that she will be able to conceive. Tragically, most physicians today are ill-equipped or uninterested in providing such healing. Instead, they are quick to refer her to the local “Fertility Clinic” which is actually little more than an IVF factory.  Here, IVF is promised to be the best or only solution to every cause of infertility, even though the most common final diagnosis given here is nothing more than their presenting symptom or literally “unexplained infertility.” After she submits to this arduous, costly, and even physically risky process, her body is manipulated like an agricultural asset. 

For example, her ovaries are unnaturally overstimulated to induce the formation of 10 or more eggs at a time in preparation for a painful procedure the IVF industry literally calls “egg harvesting.”

Sadly, development of treatments for the actual treatable causes of infertility has been neglected as nearly all the interest and funding for infertility research is directed to the highly lucrative IVF industry. Couples now typically spend $30,000 per cycle and since only about 1 in 5 cycles result in a live birth, couples often spend over $100,000 in a process that is often fruitless. Despite this, there are countless women who after multiple futile IVF cycles (where none of the children survived) deliver healthy children after actual treatments for the causes of infertility. I have personally witnessed this many times in my practice. No woman really wants IVF (especially when presented with the alternative of restorative treatments).  No woman needs IVF.


The men too are degraded in the process. Far worse than the economic burden they often incur is the personal abasement they are forced to endure. They are displaced from their natural role in physical intimacy with the woman, classically known as “marital intercourse.”  Instead they are mere sperm donors sent to the bathroom with a specimen cup and pornography (dubbed “aides” in the IVF industry) to produce the “sample” via an artificial and simulated act of intercourse. Next, the IVF doctor who certainly is not her husband impregnates the woman for a substantial fee. Worse, the sperm used to cause such multiple conceptions at time in a Petri dish are often sourced from men the woman has never even met. Such has even been described as a type of material adultery from a moral standpoint. It’s hard to imagine a more emasculating process that husbands are routinely expected to tolerate. 


Not merely the individual children, women, and men involved in particular IVF procedures, but the entire society is debased in a cultural environment where children are reduced to mere possessions to be acquired or disposed of at the pleasure of adults. Just as the widespread acceptance of contraception, pornography, and abortion have already led to a general lowering of morality and disregard for the sanctity of individual human lives. The increasing acceptance and promotion of IVF continues this ultimately destructive trend.


At its inception, IVF was never actually about serving women or “building families.” It was about arrogant men literally playing God.  The zoologist and other co-inventor of IVF, Robert Edwards, stated, “I wanted to find out exactly who was in charge, whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory – it was us!” 

Dr. Janet Smith uses the pneumonic “babies and bonding” to teach the Catholic principles of the procreative and unitive purposes of sexual intercourse according to God’s design. For millennia, fallen man has rejected the procreative purpose of marital intercourse by resorting to various forms of contraception — “bonding without babies.” Increasing over the past 46 years, the inverse has been occurring wherein we seek procreation while forsaking altogether the physical intimacy we have otherwise been obsessed with — “babies without bonding.” 

Both of these errors have led to untold harm and suffering, especially to women and children. Such damage resulting from the contraceptive mentality, though well cataloged elsewhere, is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, I have attempted here to scratch the surface and start a conversation about the individual and societal harms of IVF. In other words, to give at least an initial 7 answers of many to the question “IVF, why not?”


The US bishops’ conference has a paper considering the health risks of IVF here.

This post originally appeared at Aleteia.

To learn more about how Acadiana OB/GYN treats infertility, click here.

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