Infertile Christians Left Devastated, After Southern Baptist Convention Condemns IVF

The Southern Baptist Convention, the governing body of a massive Christian denomination, voted to condemn in vitro fertilization procedures as a treatment for infertility.

Church Members Reeling After SBC Decision

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Christian families experiencing infertility who belong to a Southern Baptist church may be forced to reevaluate their faith or their family-building options after the denomination’s governing body voted to oppose IVF.

“Frozen Embryonic Human Beings”

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Referring to the frozen embryos often created in IVF cycles as “frozen embryonic human beings,” the resolution said that Southern Baptists should “advocate for the government to restrain actions inconsistent with the dignity and value of every human being.”

SBC Defines Human Life as Beginning at Fertilization

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Their decision is based on the belief that human life begins at conception, making IVF a potentially unethical process under that assumption. In vitro fertilization involves removing sperm and egg from parents and fertilizing them outside of the body to create embryos.

IVF Explained

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The embryos can then be frozen for use at a later time or transferred a few days later into the uterus, where they have the potential to attach and grow into a fetus. 

How Embryos Are Used

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Some patients undergoing IVF treatment opt to have their embryos biopsied and sent for genetic testing to determine whether any chromosomal abnormalities are present. The genetic test can also reveal the biological sex of each embryo. 

Discarding Vs. Donating Embryos

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Genetically abnormal embryos, or embryos that are frozen and ultimately not used or donated to another patient, are often discarded or donated for scientific research. Pro-life Christians have long taken issue with this process because they consider the embryos to be human beings.

Southern Baptist Convention Speaks Out After Decision

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Jason Thacker, a representative for the Southern Baptist Convention, affirmed those beliefs in a statement to the press after the resolution.

“We Believe Life Begins at Fertilization”

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“There is a consistent belief, as our chair has already stated, that we believe that life begins at fertilization and is to be honored and cherished and protected at all stages, no matter the stage of development, nor location,” said Thacker.

Infertility Affects One in Six Couples

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As of 2024, one in six couples who attempt to get pregnant will experience infertility. IVF is one method that uses advanced scientific procedures to bypass some of the body’s processes that can be impacted by infertility. 

SBC Points to Adoption as Solution for Infertile Families

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In the resolution, the Southern Baptist Convention said that church members who are infertile should focus their attentions to adoption. It suggested for couples “to consider adopting frozen embryos in order to rescue those who are eventually to be destroyed.”

Church Members Respond

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The response from Southern Baptists who are dealing with infertility has been conflicted. Some women in the denomination have already given birth to children conceived via IVF, while others are actively in their own IVF cycles and are now unsure of how to proceed.

IVF is “Dehumanizing,” Says SBC

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Calling it “dehumanizing,” the resolution from the Southern Baptist Convention suggested that IVF was not “God-honoring or morally justified.” These words were received harshly by Baptists who had their children through IVF.

Confusion About Biblical Messaging

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Some Christians have said that the SBC’s opposition sends mixed messages about the biblical commandment to “be fruitful and multiply,” since so many families are unable to have children without technological assistance.

Questions About Exceptions

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Given that the largest concern seems to be the discarding of excess or genetically abnormal embryos, families questioned whether undergoing IVF would be deemed acceptable if they refrained from genetic testing and used every embryo they created. The direction has been unclear.

Genetic Testing and IVF

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Genetic testing has the potential to increase the success rates of IVF embryo transfers because it allows doctors to only transfer embryos that are genetically normal. This can reduce the rate of miscarriage significantly, since genetic abnormalities are a leading cause of pregnancy loss.

Adoption as a “Cure”

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The idea that adoption is a “cure” for infertility has been shut down for years by adoptees and infertile couples alike, and the SBC’s suggestion to turn to adoption in lieu of IVF has been met with disdain by many people in those groups.

Alabama Rules on Embryos

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Legal decisions around IVF, like the Alabama ruling earlier this year that granted human rights to frozen embryos, threaten to impact the procedure’s availability going forward. After that ruling, families with embryos in storage in Alabama scrambled to find storage options out of state to protect their right to use or discard the embryos as they saw fit.

The Legality of IVF

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As of now, IVF remains legal in all fifty states.

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