Chinese researchers have reportedly developed an injectable male contraceptive that has few side effects. However, an ethicist explained to CNA, if the drug is going to be used as a contraceptive, then its use would violate Catholic teaching because "contraception that interferes with conception is intrinsically evil."
The reversible contraceptive is a combination of testosterone in tea seed oil, All Headline News reports.
According to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the study involved 1,045 Chinese men between 20 and 45 who had already fathered at least one child. The men were injected with the formula for 30 months, during which only one percent of the study participants fathered a child.
No serious side effects were reported and reproductive function returned to normal levels in all but two participants, All Headline News says. Dr. Yi-Qun Gu, a researcher of the drug with the National Research Institute for Family Planning in Beijing, said more testing is required to determine the contraceptive’s effects on cardiovascular, prostate and behavioral health.
In a Wednesday phone interview, CNA spoke about the reported development with Fr. Alfred Cioffi, a National Catholic Bioethics Center staff ethicist and priest of the Archdiocese of Miami who possesses a doctorate in moral theology and a doctorate in genetics.
He said if the reported drug is going to be used as a contraceptive, then its use would violate Catholic teaching because "contraception that interferes with conception is intrinsically evil."
"It goes against the procreative aspect of the marital act," he explained, saying that Catholic teaching holds that the marital act has unitive and procreative dimensions that must be respected.
"Artificial contraception, whether by the husband or the wife, directly interferes with the procreative dimension of the marital act, and that is why the Church would oppose it," he said.
Drugs which cause infertility may only be used if infertility is a side effect of the treatment, as in some cancer drugs, and not as an intentional effect.
Voicing his personal opinion about the social effects of the new male contraceptive, he said:
"Typically when we’re dealing with pregnancy, the burden is always on the woman because the man is not going to get pregnant. So unless a woman demands he is going to use a contraceptive, why would he use this medication?"
"A man would have to be very conscious of not fathering a child to take the medication and go through the expense," he speculated.
Fr. Cioffi offered Natural Family Planning (NFP) as "the healthy, ethical, and moral alternative to artificial contraceptives."
Catholic teaching accepts NFP as a means of regulating birth because it is not an interference with a woman’s reproductive cycle.
However, its use to avoid children at a particular time must be justified by a "grave reason," such as financial or psychological concerns.
"The Church does not say to the couple ‘you must have a child every time you have intercourse,’" Fr. Cioffi explained to CNA. "But there’s a focus in favor of having children, and that decision [to use NFP] has to be reviewed periodically to see if that condition no longer applies."