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IVF: Moral and Ethical Considerations

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What’s your opinion of in vitro fertilization (IVF)? My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for years. Our doctor suggested that we consider IVF, but friends have voiced some concerns about the procedure.
We’re so sorry to learn of your struggles with infertility. We hear from many couples faced with the frustrations and doubts of such a heavy burden. Add in competing viewpoints about treatment options, and circumstances can feel overwhelming. As you’ve found, opinions about IVF vary in the Christian community. Some believe it’s ethically acceptable, while others consider it to be outside of God’s plan for procreation. But the Bible doesn’t give clear guidelines on the issue. And as a nondenominational ministry, Focus on the Family is careful when wading into such differences of opinion. That said, we can offer the following thoughts that are guided by biblical principles.

What is in vitro fertilization?

IVF is one form of assisted reproductive technology. It involves combining sperm and one or more eggs outside a woman’s body in a laboratory. After several days, the embryo(s) are implanted in the woman’s uterus. Sperm could be from the husband or from a donor. Likewise, eggs could come from the wife or a donor. And the embryo created might be implanted in the wife’s womb or the womb of a gestational surrogate.

Moral and ethical objections to IVF

In vitro fertilization has implications for the sanctity of human life and the institution of marriage between one man and one woman. It also presents identity concerns for the children conceived.
  • Sanctity of life. Human life has immeasurable value in all its forms, including the earliest stages beginning with fertilization. Embryos should never be treated carelessly or destroyed. Unfortunately, some IVF practices create numerous embryos that are likely to die or be frozen for an indefinite period.
  • Meaning of marriage. What are the consequences to the God-designed marital union if sperm from a third party is used, or if the baby is carried by a surrogate? Modern science can overstep its boundaries if it creates artificial divisions between sex, conception, and childbirth.

Reducing objections to IVF

Couples do need to be aware of the moral and ethical objections to IVF. However, we believe that husbands, wives, and doctors can take steps to lessen concerns associated with IVF.
  • Fertility specialists can protect young human lives by creating only the number of embryos that can be safely implanted in the mother’s uterus at the time they’re produced. None are frozen for future IVF cycles.
  • The meaning of marriage and child identity can be preserved when IVF is used only by a married man and woman with no third party involvement (no donor sperm, donor eggs, or surrogacy).

How to know if IVF is right for you

Couples considering in vitro fertilization should approach the decision prayerfully and with guidance from a pastor or other mature Christian. They should also consult a fertility specialist — one who’s a Christian, if possible. The views and approach of a Christian physician are far more likely to line up with pro-life values than those of a doctor who doesn’t hold a biblical perspective. Regardless, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A couple undergoing IVF needs to have full information about the process before treatment begins. Use the thoughts below as a starting point. They get to the heart of pro-life concerns: to make sure that the conception of each embryo honors and preserves life.
  • Will the specialist create only the number of embryos that will be implanted at one time — so that none are frozen and held in reserve?
  • What are the risks to the embryos that will be created?
  • What are the risks to the mother?
  • What’s the chance of success?

Finding support

Dealing with infertility and the questions raised by IVF can be challenging. But you’re not alone. Would you let us come alongside you? We’d love to hear your story and talk with you in more detail. Give us a call. Our Counseling department can offer referrals to support groups, counselors, and qualified Christian therapists who can help you work through these issues.   Resources If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer. Outside the Womb When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden The Infertility Companion: Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility by Sandra L. Glahn and William R. Cutrer (Zondervan) Infertility (resource list) Referrals Dancing Upon Barren Land Hannah’s Prayer Ministries Sarah’s Laughter Articles Infertility Medical Options for Infertility How IVF Can Be Morally Right
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