Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A Saint For Our Times


Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Image of St Gianna Beretta Molla in the Basilica of St Martin, Magenta, Italy.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was a wife, mother and physician.  She lived her life believing wholeheartedly in Divine Providence and with a fervent desire to carry out God’s will even when that required great sacrifice.

As the family comes under attack in so many different ways, as the importance of self is elevated and the maternal instinct is squashed, Saint Gianna’s virtuous life is a reminder of the truth about the dignity of the human person and of marriage and family life.

Saint Gianna’s Early Life
Born on October 4, 1922 in Magenta, Italy, Saint Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children.  The family had a deep faith where prayer, sacrifice, service to others and giving of one’s self permeated daily life.

At the age of 15, while attending a retreat, Saint Gianna made resolutions which would form the basis of her entire life.  These resolutions included offering all her joys, disappointments and sufferings to Jesus, a firm hatred of mortal sin and offending God, and the desire for a holy death.

Saint Gianna became very involved with Catholic Action where she taught young girls.  She studied diligently and became a doctor, believing it to be an opportunity to serve others and to bring the soul to Christ.  Her greatest desire was to join her brother Alberto in Brazil as a missionary.  However, this was not God’s plan for her life.

Instead marriage was to be her vocation, a vocation she embraced completely.  Talking of family life, Saint Gianna remarked “You must adapt yourself all the time to family life because you cannot enter into this way if you do not know how to love.  To love means the desire to perfect oneself and the loved one, to overcome selfishness and to give oneself.  Love must be total, full, complete, governed by God’s law and it must carry over into eternity.”

Marriage and Children
It was with great joy that Gianna married Pietro Molla on September 24, 1955 at the Basilica of St Martin, in Magenta, just outside of Milan.  They moved to the town of Ponte Nuovo, living in the house provided by the company Pietro worked for.

Gianna longed to begin a family with Pietro.  Their first child, Pierluigi was born in 1956, Mariolina in 1957 (she later died at the age of six, a short time after Saint Gianna went to her heavenly reward), and Laura came in 1959.  Throughout these years Saint Gianna continued to serve the community through her work as a physician.  However, she promised Pietro that with the next child she would give up her practice that she loved so much.

The Choice
In 1961, Gianna and Pietro realised they were blessed once again with a child.  However, about two months into the pregnancy, a large growth (fibroid) was found to be growing near her uterus.  This fibroid caused Saint Gianna a great deal of pain and it also threatened the continuation of the pregnancy.

Gianna was presented with three options:

  1. A hysterectomy, which would have removed the fibroid, but also result in the death of her unborn child.  This option would mean Gianna and Pietro could never conceive again.  Under the principle of double effect*, it would have been morally acceptable in Gianna’s situation to undergo this surgery, and the most typical intervention at that time.
  2. Removal of the fibroid and an abortion.  This option would have allowed Gianna and Pietro to try for another child, but would have been a direct abortion which is always morally wrong.
  3. Removal of the fibroid through surgery while attempting to save the unborn child and continue the pregnancy.  This surgery would hold many risks which would last throughout the pregnancy, including the possibility of a secondary rupture of the uterus, a situation which would put both Gianna and her unborn child in immediate lethal danger.

Her choice was to have the fibroid removed while attempting to save the child’s life.

In the book Saint Gianna Molla, A Woman’s Life, Ferdinando, Saint Gianna’s brother, also a doctor, recalls discussing the situation with her.  He says “she listened to me patiently and attentively, but showed one decisive concern:  that her baby be saved.  And this was the desire that she expressed to Dr Vitali when she underwent the surgery a few days later.”

Soon after the discovery of the fibroid, Gianna started haemorrhaging.  She was treated immediately and the haemorrhaging stopped, but it was decided that the surgery to remove the fibroid should be brought forward.

The surgery was successful and Gianna recuperated, although she still suffered.  Her husband, Pietro wrote “In the months following the operation, you suffered so greatly without any complaint!  You prayed so much that the baby might be born healthy and normal and both your lives might be saved.  It was your complete trust in the Lord’s providence, your certainty of the efficacy of prayer, and your abandonment to the will of God that gave you strength and support during that long, anxious wait. 

You loved our three precious children no less than you loved the baby in your womb.  For all those months you prayed to the Lord, to Our Lady, and to your own mother that the right and guarantee to life for the baby in your womb might not require the sacrifice of your life, that you would be spared for the sake of our children and our family.”

As a physician, Gianna knew that the birth would not be easy.  She knew that it might require her to sacrifice her life for the sake of her precious unborn child, so she readied herself for this reality and put her home in order.

She told her brother “The greater part has yet to come.  You do not understand these things.  When the time comes, it will be either he or I.”

Heroically, she told Pietro “If you have to decide between me and the child, do not hesitate; I demand it, the child, save it.”

Complete Gift of Self
Pietro accompanied Saint Gianna to the hospital in Monza on the afternoon of Good Friday, April 20, 1962.  There, the doctors attempted to induce labour, although this was unsuccessful.  The next day, it was decided to deliver the child by caesarean section.  Gianna Emanuela was born at 11:00am on Saturday April 21st.

Soon after the delivery, Saint Gianna’s condition deteriorated significantly.  She was diagnosed with septic peritonitis and received antibiotics, blood transfusions and injections.  However, her condition continued to decline and she suffered greatly.  Despite this, she asked not to be sedated, choosing to stay lucid.

Gianna slipped into a coma on Friday 27th April.  Knowing that she would not survive, Pietro had her brought to the family home, where she died peacefully at 8:00am on Saturday 28th April, 1962.  She was 39 years old.

Why Devotion to Saint Gianna is so important now
We live in difficult times, where the culture of death is threatening to engulf the whole world.  No family seems to be able to escape its evil tentacles.  Youth are taught to give in to their desires and passions, leading them into a selfishness that doesn’t understand how to truly love another.

Marriage has been profaned.  Only seen as a celebration of “love” (however that is perceived); in many nations civil marriages are now no longer exclusive to one man and one women.

Contraception has become the norm for couples whether married or not.  Abortion is celebrated by some, and many see it as a necessary evil – even within the Church.

Women are urged to think only of themselves and limit the number of children they have through temporary or permanent sterilisation.  Mothers who suffer throughout their pregnancies are given stern warnings when they joyfully welcome another little one into their family.

The world needs the great example of Saint Gianna to show them what love really looks like; that one finds themselves in the complete giving of oneself to another.  Her wholehearted abandonment to God’s will and reliance on His Grace as she lived her vocation as physician, wife and mother reveals that our true strength comes from Him alone.

For those families who are trying faithfully to follow God’s will for them, Saint Gianna is a source of encouragement and consolation in times of difficulty.  Her gentle, maternal presence and her intercession before the throne of God obtain for the faithful many graces.

Saint John Paul II pointed out in his homily during the Mass for her canonisation why devotion to Saint Gianna is so necessary in our age.  He said “following the example of Christ, who “having loved his own… loved them to the end” (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.  Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”

Saint Gianna was a woman of awesome faith, a great defender and protector of life, and a devoted wife and mother who understood the importance of marriage and family.  All are now under an aggressive and intensifying attack.  She is indeed a saint for our time.


Saint Gianna is patron saint of mothers, physicians and unborn children.  She was canonised by Saint John Paul II on 16th May 2004.  Her feast day is April 28.

*Principle of Double Effect – this principle is utilized to evaluate actions which have two effects, one good and one evil. The principle of double effect has been summarized into 4 basic criteria: 1) the action in itself must be good or indifferent; 2) the good effect cannot be obtained through the bad effect (because then the end would justify the means); 3) there must be a proportion between the good and bad effects brought about (e.g. life against life); 4) the intention of the subject must be directed towards the good effect, and merely tolerate the bad effect. Some say there is a fifth requirement – that there does not exist another possibility or avenue.


Fr Clovis: The Francis Effect

Cardinal Burke and Fr ClovisRecently, Father Linus Clovis, our Spiritual Director, addressed the pro-life and pro-family leaders gathered for the Rome Life Forum.  His talk was entitled “The Francis Effect”.

The Rome Life Forum was organised by Voice of the Family and the focus of the meetings was the Synod of the Family.

Father Clovis is the director of the Secretariat for Family and Life in St Lucia.  He has a doctorate in Mathematics and degrees in Theology, Canon Law and Latin Literature.  He was ordained by St John Paul II in 1983.

The following are some quotes from Father’s talk, but I encourage you to listen to the whole presentation:

“When a bishop — a Catholic bishop — can applaud sin publicly, it causes us to tremble. But this is essentially the ‘Francis Effect.’ It’s disarming bishops and priests, especially after the Holy Father said, ‘Who am I to judge?’ I as a priest say Mass, preaching, and I make a judgment about a sin, one breaking the ten commandments, I would be condemned for judging. I would be accused of being ‘more Catholic than the pope’. There used to be a saying — rhetorical — ‘is the pope Catholic?’ That’s no longer funny.”

“Obedience is owed to the pope, but the pope owes obedience to the word and the apostolic tradition. We have to obey the pope, but the pope himself must obey the written word. He must obey the tradition. He must respond to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Obedience is owed to the pope, but it is the duty of the pope to give the character of possibility to this obedience. The pope has to facilitate our obeying him, by himself being obedient to the Word of God. Pope Felix III told us, ‘an error that is not resisted is approved. A truth that is not defended is suppressed.’ So we have an obligation to resist error, and we must do everything that we can to promote the truth.”

“The popes are hated, and I don’t think we had a problem with that per se. We didn’t like it. But I think that I’ll be correct in saying that we prefer our popes to be hated by the world than loved by the world. Because if he’s loved by the world, it indicates that he’s speaking the language of the world. And we know that there can be no relationship, no fellowship, between light and darkness. St. Paul tells us this.”

“He complains we talk too much about abortion and contraception. Well…Do we? Again, the apostle tells us ‘convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.’ So, we have an obligation to speak about those sins for which the punishment is eternal damnation in Hell. We’re talking about the salvation of souls. The Code of Canon Law ends, ‘the highest good is the salvation of souls.’ And this is why Christ founded His Church: for the salvation of souls.”

“Our concern is of course for the upcoming synod and what appears to be favored to bring remarried divorcees to communion. This is going to be a serious blow to the Church and to the faithful. Because already it has caused a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Even in my pastoral experience I’ve encountered women who’ve said…a mother, her son’s divorced, remarried, and says, ‘Well the Holy Father allows him to communion, doesn’t he? I don’t think it’s right, father, but the pope…’ We have that problem already. And we see the pattern, is is done for Humane Vitae. It’s up there in the air, and of course it’s going to…become the law. You can do it. So, we really do need to have eyes firmly fixed on heaven, beseeching heaven, to guide our bishops.”

“There are rumors of the pastoral relaxation of Humanae Vitae….it’s not going to be contradicted, it’s not going to be deleted, it’s going to be extended. Which is so much more deadly. Because we have presented something that is evil as if it were good. And we are building this evil thing on a good foundation.”

“We love the pope! He is our father. He is our sweet Christ on Earth. There is concern among Catholics who are confused and fearful. And we and they do not wish to criticize, or worse still, to judge the pope. But, again, we are judging not his person or his office but the results of his actions. And we’re not doing this out of indignation. Because what he is doing is the cause of our indignation. And it is a threat to our faith. And it’s a threat to the Church. And it’s a danger to the salvation of souls.”

“‘Now it can be said…’ — this is written by…Melchior Cano, a famous theologian in the 16th century — ‘Now it can be said briefly that those who defend blindly and indiscriminately any judgment whatsoever of the Supreme Pontiff concerning every matter weaken the authority of the Apostolic See; they do not support it; they subvert it; they do not fortify it… . Peter has no need of our lies; he has no need of our adulation.’ In other words, we must be vigilant. We must be objective in our approach to the present crisis in the Church.”

The Numbers game

couplelovebabyOne question that frequently comes up in parenting circles is ‘how many children is the right number?’ I’ve always thought it is an odd that in a pluralistic world, people would think there would be a one size fits all family.

There is a lot of advice on the subject, and for those of us with more than three children, a lot of unwanted comments too. I should have seen it coming when our third child was born, and one of the first comments was, ‘Wow, you have a large family now’. We didn’t stop at three, and the comments didn’t stop either. After our fifth, I started getting less comments, with most people sighing and shaking their heads. I think they had given up on me as a lost cause. My wife’s experience was significantly different. The comments and odd looks haven’t stopped.

These comments on family size are one of the few personal criticisms that is still socially acceptable. If you comment negatively about someone’s sexual orientation, you will be shunned from polite society. Similarly for commenting on someone moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage. And yet making humiliating and hurting comments about the number of children good parents have is fair game. ‘She’s too young’, ‘She’s too old’, or ‘Are you addicted to babies?’ Most mums of large families could easily fill a book with the comments that they have received.

And governments get in on the act too.  Some countries have decided the ideal family size, and either encourage through public policy, or legislate their ideal number. Generally this number is one or two. A number is set under the influence of the population control lobby. There is a terrible toll on human life due to forced or coerced abortion.

But here in New Zealand, the decision is the parent’s, but there is certainly social pressure. Back when I was at school, there was great concern about overpopulation. When I grew up I was going to be stepping over bodies wherever I went, and it was certain that there was going to be widespread starvation. We now recognise that famine is caused by distribution problems, generally due to wars. And as for stepping over people to get anywhere, our biggest population problems include widespread loneliness, and the coming demographic winter.

So the academic reasons for limiting family size never really existed. What is left is social and economic.

Housing a family is expensive, and there is a growing expectation that all children should have their own room. The expectations for what a child should own are getting unrealistic. Some schools dictate each child should own a tablet or laptop computer. Every teenager expects to have a cell phone, and usually a smartphone. Even state schools have suggested donations and all manner of activity fees.

So the faithful Catholic couple has to live in a world that is hostile to the idea of being generous with the size of their family. Here the Church makes the most modest demands, and these are for the benefit of the couple and their family.

The Church asks for generosity, and what newly married person does not want to be generous with their love for their spouse? The church asks that their loving gift of self to each other is complete, and does not selfishly hold back fertility. What newly married couple plans selfish motives in their love? Here the Church goes even further to help the couple. She encourages natural fertility regulation as a means, for serious reasons, to avoid pregnancy for a time. So the Church proposes means to avoid pregnancy without entering into a contradictory act. That is where they appear to giving themselves fully, but at the same time they limit their gift of self by withholding the very part of that gift that takes love beyond the couple. That being their fertility. And it’s children that take the loving gift of self between loving spouses, and multiply that gift beyond the couple.

And finally the Church trusts the married couple to make decisions about when they are ready for each child. The guidance she gives in no way determines a one size fits all number of children a family should have. They are free to decide, based on their circumstances, whether to, as one Catholic women described to me, “Just plan our family naturally”. Or alternatively wait until circumstances have improved.

In no way does the Church impose on the married couple, rather she gently proposes her teachings for the good of the spouses. If they both choose to follow the advice, marriage is elevated to a state of living a poetry of love. This is in profound contrast to the selfish and utilitarian motives of the world around us.

Living and dying with faith, hope and love

Divine MercyYesterday I attended the Requiem Mass for a man whose life profoundly affected mine – Dr Peter Scanlon.

It was a beautiful Requiem – solemn, a little bit joyful at times and a reminder that our eyes must always be fixed upon God in this life, for it is God who is our final end.

I realised that this is just how Dr Scanlon would have planned  it – teaching those present, even in his death.

Because the Dr Scanlon I knew was a teacher.  His enthusiasm for medicine and the dignity of the human person was palpable.  He would take the time to explain anything asked of him.  He was always willing to give of his time to speak up for the unborn and the devastating effects contraceptives have.  One knew that if you approached Dr Scanlon with a question, you would get a well considered and truthful answer.

It is clear to me, that for Dr Scanlon, every single person mattered.  From the youngest to the eldest, with his gentle spirit, he would make time for everyone.  I am sure he saw in each the face of God.

There are three things that I have learnt from Dr Scanlon over the years:

Courage to speak up in the face of great injustice.  Courage to speak the truth in love.  Courage to correct with humility.  Courage to suffer with a deep trust and abandonment to God and His will.

To embrace the cross.
Suffering is something not to be afraid of.  In suffering we enter into the very heart of Jesus.  When I first learnt of Dr Scanlon’s illness I knew immediately that he would be offering his suffering up.  Yesterday I learnt that his great suffering was for the medical profession and for Catholic priests.  Of course!

Faith, Hope and Love
Okay, so that is three things, but they go together!  Dr Scanlon, in his life and in his death, has taught me to constantly have faith in God and His perfect plan; to hope in perfect trust; and to love God above all else.  With these virtues in place it is easy to love our neighbour.

I have been privileged to know this great man.  It has been an honour to pray for him, his beautiful wife Maria and his seven amazing children over these months.  I have been profoundly affected, as have many others by Dr Scanlon’s life and faith.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.

“This kingdom free of care and filled with joy, crowded with citizens of the Old and New turned all its love and vision to one goal.  O great delight that glittered for their view.”
~ Dante, Paradiso, 31. 25-28




Decriminalisation of what?


Decriminalising’ abortion is in the media again.  It’s not the first time it’s been in the news and it certainly will not be the last time.  This time it looks like it’s going to be an election issue, or at least there is an effort to make it an election issue.  What is being proposed this time is very familiar, and could have come from the wish list of any New Zealand pro-abortion lobby group.

The main proposal is to remove abortion from the Crimes Act.  There is also a desire to reduce the time and complication required before a woman has an abortion.  And there is a desire to keep the status quo for abortions after 20 weeks, (although pre-born children with fetal abnormalities post 20 weeks are targeted).  None of this will happen if abortion is removed from the Crimes Act, unless other legislation is changed too.  Most of the regulations for the two Certifying Consultants are not in the Crimes Act, they are in the Contraception Sterilisation, and Abortion (CSA) act 1977.  So removing abortion from Crimes Act would not streamline the consulting process. And no one has mentioned changing CSA.  Furthermore, the distinction between abortions before 20 weeks and after 20 weeks is in the Crimes Act.  So if abortion was simply removed from the Crimes Act, the likely result would be virtually abortion on demand for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

All of this is supposedly to benefit women having abortions and to protect them from the law.  But the Crimes Act specifically protects women from prosecution. It only has legal sanctions against doctors and others involved in preforming abortions.

So this raises the question, is removing abortion from the Crimes Act an attempt to benefit women or is it really a way to move abortion out of the public health system, and create a US style abortion industry with legal protection for doctors to exploit vulnerable women? There are some hints in the usual rhetoric of the recent policy announcement. The issue of consistency of access to abortion across New Zealand and especially in provincial areas is constantly brought up by the pro-abortion movement. People who live far away from major hospitals have a lot of issues accessing timely healthcare and paying for accommodation and travel. It’s big issue in maternity care but somehow abortion promoters forget to talk about that ‘women’s health’ issue.

Removing the oversight of the abortion referral process, and allowing more abortions to take place outside of a hospital setting is going to allow a US or Australian style for profit abortion industry to thrive in New Zealand. I don’t know if our politicians are aware of this, but I know the abortion promoters are. After all, Family Planning did bring in the US$523 616 paid CEO of the United States largest abortion provider to teach them how to bring a ‘reproductive rights’ movement into New Zealand.

And speaking of Cecile Richards, the line about ‘trusting women’ comes straight from her.  Richards’ ‘trust’ of vulnerable women has seen her organisation increase the numbers of abortions it performs during her leadership, as the total number of abortions in the US is declining.

I’ve never met a women at this Centre that I won’t trust. Abortion isn’t, and never has been about trust. Most of these women feel that they don’t have a choice. To say that they ‘trust’ women in crisis circumstances, but then to only offer abortion as a way out, is exploiting women.

It is pleasing to see there is talk of offering more assistance to pregnant women. But government agencies don’t have a great record of catering to the needs of people in crisis. From my own experience they are better at causing stress than they are in relieving it. I’m pleased to work for an organisation that provides practical help for people without them having to have a degree in paperwork. But helping isn’t always wanted by our politicians if they have political issues with us.

So removing abortion from the Crimes Act would seem to benefit doctors and business plans more than women. And removing certifying requirements would allow some of the worst excesses of the Australian and US abortion industry to happen here.

If we are going to change our laws on abortion, shouldn’t we change them to protect women and children, rather than to allow them to be exploited and killed?

The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.

IVF as exploitation


I think the Catholic Church’s opposition to IVF is well known. It’s based on the principle that IVF separates intercourse from procreation. In some ways it’s like contraception, only in reverse. It’s also very costly in terms of human life at the stage of the human embryo.

But it has a very human side too. The desire for children can be very strong. And many couples find it difficult to conceive. For many of these couples, that realisation doesn’t come until the last years of their fertility, which adds a sense of urgency.

If these couples are blessed to live in a part of world where there is good fertility treatment which is morally acceptable, then they have the option for a treatment that works with a woman’s natural cycle. In other areas, there are less options, typically only IVF.

IVF is hard on the couples who go through it. The scientific literature documents cycles of anxiety which the women experience during cycles and depression after failed cycles. The hormones used to stimulate the ovaries into releasing eggs are not kind to women. The process of collecting eggs is physically painful, but this pain is described as less than the emotional pain. Each cycle of treatment brings more anticipation and anxiety.

Men feel disconnected from the whole procedure, as if they are passive observers in the creation of their own children. I’ve even heard of one father who wasn’t even present in the same country as his wife when his child was conceived.

Approximately 40% of infertility is due to male problems. Is it right that the women should be exposed to all the risk and pain of IVF to overcome the male’s infertility? And a male’s infertility can be a symptom of serious disease. The failure to fully investigate this can be the lost chance to treat a potentially serious problem.

Some centres will not accept older couples, as they have a lower chance of success. This is to improve the success rating of the treatment centre, rather than for the benefit of the couple.

The cost of the treatment is very high. Here in New Zealand there is some public funding available for those who meet the criteria. For those that don’t, it’s upwards of $10 000 per cycle, and nearly $30 000 for a typical 3 cycle treatment.  This is far more than many can afford. Is it just that only the wealthy can have children?

The heartache doesn’t stop when the treatment ends. For couples who are unsuccessful, there is no clearly defined end of treatment. Would one more cycle give them the baby they want? And often there is no reason found for their inability to have a baby.

There is immediate relief for couples who get a baby. But frequently there are ‘leftover’ embryos. Currently in excess of 10 000 in New Zealand alone. Many couples end their treatment with no intention of having more children. But frequently they correctly identify these embryos as being the siblings of the children they already have at home. They don’t want to bring them to birth, but they don’t have any morally acceptable alternatives. They see them as theirs, so they don’t want to donate them to others. And because they have some understanding of their humanity, they don’t want them destroyed by the clinic or by medical researchers. So every time the bill for cold storage arrives, there is a repeat of the anxiety. In the past many couples just paid the bill and put off making a decision. But now they will be forced to make the decision after 10 years. These dilemmas aren’t adequately considered before starting IVF.

There are new morally acceptable fertility treatments available under the banner of NaProTechnology. These treatments diagnose problems with fertility, and then treat them and work with a women’s natural cycle. The babies that result are born from an act of love, rather than a medical technique in a petri dish. For New Zealanders, the closest doctors are in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia. But there are several practitioners in New Zealand who can start couples off with charting their fertility. That information can later be used by the overseas doctors. NaProTechnology is very successful helping couples with fertility problems to become pregnant. It also helps with many other gynaecological problems. And even for the couple who it can’t help to have a baby, at least it often tells them what the problem is with their fertility. For many, this can be a comfort. After 3 years of practising natural family planning 55% of subfertile couple conceive naturally. NaProTechnology results in even more couples having babies, and sooner.

It there is one last solution for those who wish to have children, who are infertile. It’s adoption. With the queues of people lining up for fertility treatment, how can we say that the more than 14 000 children aborted last year were “unwanted”?