In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is basically the family planning of the future for couples who can’t have biological children. It involves the removal of egg and sperm cells from two parents, and the combination of those cells in a controlled lab environment. The technology is fascinating, and has been life-changing for many families. But that doesn’t mean the process is perfect.
There are moral dilemmas we face when dealing with IVF. So, how do you respond to these?
There is nothing inherently wrong with using technology to create a baby using a couple’s sperm and eggs (from a purely secular pro-life point of view– many people of various faith traditions have valid religious reasons against it). But where does the devil lie? In the details. In almost every IVF case, multiple embryos are created, with the extra embryos being destroyed. A consistent, intellectually-honest stance holds that human life begins at conception/fertilization, which means that destroying embryos is killing human beings at our very earliest phase.
As SFLA President Kristan Hawkins explains in her op-ed, prenatal testing combined with IVF also leads to eugenics, where people screen embryos for potential genetic defects and then kill those embryos. We know that something like 80 to 90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted, and we see similar numbers for spina bifida and cystic fibrosis. As pro-lifers, we cannot support a technology that allows for targeted killing based on genetic defects/possible medical conditions.
We are NOT making a moral judgement of someone who has used IVF, but as pro-life people, we need to be concerned about the “throw-away” culture created using IVF. Since we know that life begins at conception, taking actions which deliberately kill an embryo is a human rights violation, same as abortion.
Similar to abortion, the pro-life community does not blame the parents. With abortion, responsibility for the destruction is placed on the abortionist. And with IVF, with the doctors or researchers who destroy the embryos.
The troubling issue for the pro-life community is that, in many cases, the absolute intent is to create multiple embryos with no plan or restrictions on how to use them, and so then the embryos are either destroyed or used for research. Students for Life has made that point — a humane policy makes a plan for all life. Creating life with the intent to destroy or use for experimentation is inhumane. And the current law allows for the IVF site to do basically whatever it wants.
No one ever said it was easy to be consistent. Holding steadfast in the truth, even when things get personal, can feel impossible. But when we approach every tough conversation with love and empathy, together we can figure out how to care for families struggling with fertility AND create a society that respects all human life, regardless of age.