Is It Moral for Women to Freeze Their Eggs?

Is it moral for women to have eggs from their ovaries removed and frozen?

1. What is the intended end, i.e. the purpose of the act?

If the reason is to use the eggs later in a procedure called IVF, the intention is immoral. IVF is intrinsically evil because it separates the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual relations. All forms of artificial procreation are intrinsically evil, according to Church teaching. So any act which has, as its intended end, the goal to prepare for the later commission of an intrinsically evil act, would be immoral due to that bad intention.

Are there any other reasons that a woman might freeze her eggs, other than to use later in a form of artificial procreation? I could not find any common and moral reason for freezing eggs.

However, as a pure hypothetical, if it were medically possible, and if it were the intended end, to return the frozen eggs to the ovaries, so that natural conception could occur, the intention would be moral. But a grave reason would be needed, in order to justify any reasonably anticipated bad consequences of this procedure.

I suppose that a woman might have some eggs removed and frozen to assist medical researchers in an important and moral study, one that does not involve creating or destroying embryos. Such an intended end would be moral, so the first font of morality would be good, in that case.

But what is the moral object of the act?

2. Is freezing eggs intrinsically evil?

The moral object of the act is to prepare for a later intrinsically evil act of IVF or other artificial procreation. So the act would constitute formal cooperation with that later intrinsically evil act. When your act is ordered toward helping the intrinsically evil act of another person to attain its moral object, then your act is also intrinsically evil. Every act of formal cooperation is itself intrinsically evil. And the same principle applies if your cooperative act assists a different act by you, which is intrinsically evil, in attaining its evil moral object.

Supposing that the intended end is not any form of artificial procreation, nor any intrinsically evil act, would freezing eggs be intrinsically evil? If the intended end is to provide eggs for a research study (one that is moral), then the first font (intention) is good. But what would the moral object be?

It is often the case that the intended end and the moral object are similar or the same. A physician intends to heal a patient, so he chooses an act inherently ordered toward healing that patient. Healing is the intended end and the moral object, that is to say, both the person who acts and the chosen act are seeking that same end. The physician might reasonably anticipate some bad consequences, such as side effects, but he also reasonably anticipates the good consequence of healing the patient. So the font of circumstances would be good, and the end of healing is also in the third font.

In the case of removing and freezing eggs for a medical study, the knowingly chosen act is intrinsically ordered toward obtaining knowledge from the study, so the act is not intrinsically evil.

Please note that the removal of a living embryo, or of any prenatal at any stage in development, for research purposes would be immoral, especially if the research involves the destruction of the prenatal. An unfertilized egg is not a human being, and so the moral analysis of the act is substantially different.

3. The circumstances of the act of removing eggs for freezing vary, depending on the particular case.

When the eggs are removed to prepare for IVF, the bad consequences include that a gravely immoral act is now more readily able to be committed. And The only substantial good consequence is that the woman or couple eventually may obtain a child. But that good consequence is attainable by moral acts, such as adoption. Whenever a good consequence is attainable by a good act, rather than by an evil act, the weight of the good consequence is greatly reduced in the third font of that evil act. For it is morally attainable without grave sin.

More and more often, in sinful secular society, gravely immoral acts are promoted and approved, as if they were a normal and good part of ordinary life. And so it becomes harder for persons, especially those who do not have the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church, to see the immorality of these widely accepted choices. Then, as time passes, more and more Catholics are influenced by society, so that they begin to see these grave sins as if they were good, normal, ordinary daily choices.

The world is becoming progressively more sinful, and we faithful must take great care not to be drawn along with them toward Hell.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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6 Responses to Is It Moral for Women to Freeze Their Eggs?

  1. Matt says:

    A relative of mine is having a baby through a surrogate. It pains me and disgusts me that such a grave sin is occurring. Another woman carrying and delivering your child! I understand that they are desperate and in late 40’s. What is worse is that the wife is a baptized and confirmed Catholic, but non-practicing, nor got married in the Catholic Church.

    However an innocent child will be born out of this arrangement. Cutting ties to relatives would cause more harm than good. What is a Catholic to do in face of such evil? I have and contineu to pray for them.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I agree that cutting ties does more harm than good. Prayer and forbearance. The worst thing about this type of child-bearing is that the IVF process produces many embryos and ends up destroying most of them. At least several prenatals die for each child born.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    I agree with Fr.Tad Pachilzyk here. Embryo adoption would be immoral. Unlike adoption after birth, there is a link between father, mother, and the child in the womb. With the child in the womb not their own, many problems could exist such as jealousy of one of the spouses. Plus the act of putting an embryo in a woman’s womb would still be IVF and the doctors acting in a place where only God is allowed. Also, as Fr.Tad says embryo adoption will make more business for the IVF people which will result in more frozen embryos and more children dying.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Under the three fonts of morality, embryo adoption is not intrinsically evil, and so whether or not it is moral depends on intention and circumstances. We must take into account the fact that, if no embryo adoption occurs, the over one million frozen embryos will perish. And, no, implanting an adopted embryo is not artificial procreation (IVF). It is unfortunate and a grave sin that so many embryos were created by IVF, but letting them perish in a frozen state is not moral. It is a sin of omission to let them die. The path to birth for them is not intrinsically evil. And the good consequence of giving them life outweighs the bad consequences.

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