Is the harvesting of eggs from women a form of female Onanism? That’s the question Genevieve Kineke poses in a post highlighting the dangers to the donors in the harvesting of human eggs.
At first, I dismissed the thought, because an egg is simply an egg. If it’s not fertilised, there’s no life and thus if it’s destroyed, there’s no harm. (It’s the fertilisation in the petri dish and subsequent destruction that is wrong.) BUT THEN, in an “a ha” moment, I had to say: Is it possible that this is the feminine version of “Onanism” — in which it is declared sinful for men to spill their semen without the potential to give life. What exactly is the sin of Onanism, and could this be an equivalent?
Without going into lurid details that I would attract the wrong kind of web surfer, let’s just say that onanism in Catholic moral theology is not precisely a solitary act, but usually refers to contraception. The sin of Onan was the “spilling of his seed” in order to avoid conception. However, in general usage it’s often been used to refer to other immoral sexual acts.
Regardless of whether the word can be applied to this instance of egg harvesting, I think that I would have to leave it to more qualified experts, like Jimmy Akin, to discern the morality. Is it the act of spilling seed or egg, in this case, that is wrong or does illicit sexual imagination and self-pleasuring have to be an element?
My gut says that there’s something wrong with egg harvesting, although I’m not 100% certain of that. After all, could there be valid medical reasons for a doctor to harvest eggs that have nothing to do with in vitro fertilization or other destructive practices? I’d welcome other opinions.