‘Someone Like You’ Is a Love Story With a Troublesome Twist

The Catholic Church unequivocally opposes the use of IVF as a violation of human dignity.

‘IVF’ (photo: Healthy Definition / Shutterstock)

Imagine you’re in love — but your best friend, the person who means the most to you, is tragically killed in an auto accident. You’re left with an immeasurable grief, a profound loneliness.

That’s the story that unfolds in Someone Like You, the novel by bestselling author Karen Kingsbury. The reader is led on an exuberant hike through tragedy and heartbreak to fulfillment and true love, as young architect Dawson Gage loses his best friend London and begins a search for London’s secret sister Andi Allen, who was separated from her when they were only embryos.

And now, Someone Like You has been released as a major motion picture, showing in theaters nationwide. I found myself smiling; I loved watching Sarah Fisher as London, and Jake Allyn in the role of Dawson. The movie is not only engaging but is also clean (it earned a PG rating).

But wait, there’s more: On the surface, Someone Like You is a feel-good movie about someone who finds true love after enduring great sorrow. But one aspect of the story that almost escapes notice is the role that in vitro fertilization plays in the characters’ lives. London’s parents, finding themselves frustrated after trying unsuccessfully to conceive, turned to IVF to produce a child. When doctors produced not one but two human embryos, the Quinns allowed one to be implanted in the mother’s womb but gave the second one away, hoping that another family would adopt the embryo and bring the child to term.

That’s what happened, and the child, London’s “secret sister” Andi Allen, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where she found a job caring for animals in the Birmingham Zoo. It was there that Dawson found her, and where she learned that she had been adopted even before birth and had another biological family that she’d never met.

The film has a happy ending, but it overlooks an important fact: In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in vitro fertilization is “morally unacceptable.”

With the help of medical experts employing IVF, the Quinns were able to conceive their daughter London. It seemed to them that their dreams had come true and that their family was complete. 

But despite the Quinns’ happiness when IVF works as planned and they find themselves on the road to parenthood, there are serious issues that must be considered. 

For author Karen Kingsbury, those issues are easily resolvable. Asked about her views on IVF, she responded: 

IVF is personal to couples struggling with infertility. I think science is raising questions only God can answer!! And I put more thought into what should be done with the leftover embryos. I’m a big believer in Embryo Adoption!! And of course, embryo adoption agencies encourage couples to be upfront from the beginning with their adopted children.

The Catholic Church, however, while sharing Kingsbury’s concern for the good of families, unequivocally opposes the use of IVF. Citing God’s twofold purpose for the marital embrace as both procreative and unitive, the Church teaches that artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and surrogate motherhood are immoral because they involve sexual acts that are procreative, but not unitive. Rightful conception, the Church explains, must respect the inseparability of the two meanings of the sexual act.

Paragraph 2377 of the Catechism explains the issue in greater detail:

Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children. … Under the moral aspect, procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union. … Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.

The Catechism goes on to explain that a child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”

The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.