If you keep abreast of scientific news, you know that the astonishing advancements offered by modern medicine have utterly transformed the landscape of reproductive health and planning for many women who, in ages past, would have had no choice but to let go of the dream of conceiving and carrying their own child. 


While fertility doctors now bring renewed hope to couples struggling to get pregnant, the ethical dimensions of assisted reproductive technologies often spark heated debates. Among these technologies, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) stands out as a powerful tool in helping individuals achieve their dream of parenthood. The ProLife Doc, Dr. William Lile, recognizes the complexities surrounding IVF and the difficulty of balancing the desire for conception with the sanctity of life. The first command that Adam and Eve were given in Genesis 1:28 was ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ This same command was repeated to Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:7: ‘…and you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply it.’ Children are a blessing. I will leave it to Church leaders to discuss the beliefs of different denominations regarding Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). Is there a way to take part in IVF that is ethically consistent with pro-life beliefs? 


Too Many Embryos


At the heart of the pro-life concern regarding IVF lies the principle that life begins at conception, and has value even from its very earliest stages. The field of in vitro fertilization is largely unregulated, and the way it is typically practiced by fertility specialists often results in large numbers of fertilized embryos, numbers well in excess of what is needed for implantation. These tiny lives are first frozen, and then, after time passes, may end up being used in scientific research, adopted by other potential parents, or simply thrown away, a possibility that is shocking to anyone who recognizes the innate worth and dignity of every human being.


In Dr. Lile’s pro-life approach to IVF, he emphasizes the importance of only creating embryos that will eventually be implanted, ensuring that each embryo has the opportunity to develop and grow. This stance aligns with the belief that every human life deserves the chance to thrive and be born.


One possibility is to only harvest and fertilize as many eggs as the mother involved plans to carry herself. For example, a couple with five frozen embryos might attempt to implant two for their first pregnancy and save the others for future pregnancies, eventually giving all five the chance at life. While this approach may reduce the potential parents’ chances of conceiving in comparison with a more copious attempt, it eliminates the ethical conundrum of what to do with “extra” embryos, as well as the terrible specter of undergoing an abortion later on in pregnancy to reduce the number of fetuses in the womb.


Another prospect for addressing the surplus of frozen embryos is adoption. Organizations like Snowflakes provide a pathway for these embryos to be matched with hopeful adoptive parents, granting them the chance to experience the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth and supporting the embryos’ right to life. By facilitating embryo adoption, organizations like these advocate for a solution that upholds the dignity of human life while offering hope to those longing to become parents.


Other Ethical Issues


However, the ethical landscape of IVF extends beyond the fate of frozen embryos. Custody battles over these embryos underscore the complex legal and moral implications of assisted reproduction. The term “custody” itself implies a recognition of the humanity of these embryos, reframing the debate from one of ownership to one of guardianship. Children should not be treated as commodities.


Moreover, the involvement of surrogates introduces additional layers of complexity. Dr. Lile recounts delivering twins carried by a surrogate but destined for a non-traditional family unit. Such scenarios challenge conventional notions of parenthood and raise profound questions about the rights and well-being of the children involved that don’t necessarily arise in more traditionally conceived pregnancies. 


Ethical questions—and even legal questions—go even further. In some cases, errors have been made in fertilizing eggs with the wrong sperm or implanting the wrong embryo altogether, resulting in children who are not biologically related to the mother or the father. With unregulated use of IVF, children may grow up with multiple half-siblings or siblings they know nothing about—a problem that can have severe consequences for potential marital relationships and medical issues that have a genetic component.


From a Christian perspective, navigating the ethical terrain of IVF requires careful consideration of theological principles. While some churches express reservations about IVF or even condemn it entirely, others view it as a means of fulfilling the biblical command to “be fruitful and multiply.” This latter perspective acknowledges the longing for parenthood as a natural and legitimate desire while emphasizing the need for responsible stewardship of life.


The Crux of the Matter


In addressing the ethical dilemmas posed by IVF, one essential concern is to maintain a balance between the pursuit of parenthood and the protection of God’s precious image bearers at every stage of development. Human desires do not outweigh the Creator’s will, and we should approach matters that touch on life and death with the utmost humility. An ethically sound pro-life approach emphasizes the importance of honoring the sanctity of life at every stage of the reproductive process, from conception to childbirth. Ultimately, the ethical implications of IVF extend beyond the realm of medicine, touching upon fundamental questions of morality, identity, and family. By asking God for wisdom to follow His will in prayer, engaging in thoughtful dialogue, and upholding a reverence for life, we can navigate the complexities of assisted reproduction with compassion and integrity.

In vitro fertilization presents both opportunities and challenges in the journey towards parenthood. By embracing an ethical approach grounded in respect for human life, we can honor the sanctity of every individual, born and unborn. As Dr. Lile reminds us, the pursuit of parenthood must be guided by a commitment to uphold the dignity and value of every human life, from conception to birth and beyond. To learn more about the pro-life ministry and work of the ProLife Doc, contact him for information or explore the resources available at his website.

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