Southern Baptist Convention approves resolution opposing IVF

shutterstock 626843126 A technician does control check of the in vitro fertilization process using a microscope. | Credit: Shutterstock

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., on Wednesday voted to approve a resolution opposing the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and called on Christian couples to “consider the ethical implications of assisted reproductive technologies as they look to God for hope, grace, and wisdom amid suffering.” 

The resolution, which is a statement of belief and is nonbinding, comes following a landmark ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in February that found that frozen human embryos are children under state law. The ruling sparked a national debate, and Alabama lawmakers have since passed a bill that grants immunity to IVF providers in cases of death or injury to unborn babies during the IVF process. 

IVF is a medical procedure that fuses sperm and egg in a lab environment to conceive a child outside of the sexual act. The live embryo is then later implanted into a uterus to continue developing until birth.

The Catholic Church opposes the use of IVF on the grounds that it separates the marriage act from procreation and establishes “the domination of technology” over human life. The use of IVF, which necessarily includes a selection process of the “best” embryos, has led to millions of rejected human embryos being discarded and millions more frozen and stored in a state of limbo.

The SBC resolution passed on Wednesday echoes Catholic teaching in affirming that while “all children are to be fully respected and protected, not all technological means of assisting human reproduction are equally God-honoring or morally justified.” (Nearly a third of Alabamans are members of the Baptist faith.)

“The in vitro fertilization process routinely creates more embryos than can reasonably be implanted, thus resulting in the continued freezing, stockpiling, and ultimate destruction of human embryos, some of which may also be subjected to medical experimentation,” the resolution continues. 

“[W]e call on Southern Baptists to love all of their neighbors in accordance with their God-given dignity as image bearers and to advocate for the government to restrain actions inconsistent with the dignity and value of every human being, which necessarily includes frozen embryonic human beings.”

Debate on the floor of the SBC annual meeting, taking place in Indianapolis, saw several delegates from Baptist churches around the country — known as “messengers” — rise in support of and opposition to the resolution.

One messenger, Kentuckian Monica Hall, rose in support of the resolution, saying that there is “no way to describe the treatment of embryos at any point on the IVF process as ethical or dignified.” She endorsed a section of the resolution calling for the adoption of existing frozen embryos — a practice that the Catholic Church has not definitively ruled on but has expressed serious moral reservations about. 

Prominent Southern Baptist leaders had signaled opposition to IVF in recent weeks, with Albert Mohler, president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky, and a longtime critic of IVF, urging Christians to support the “correct ruling and judgment by the Alabama Supreme Court.” Mohler authored the SBC resolution along with SBTS professor Andrew Walker.

“Quite frankly, we know that in our churches we have compromised on this issue. But if we believe in the sanctity and dignity of every single human life from the moment of fertilization, we need to recognize any intervention with an embryo, any commodification of the embryo, any turn of the embryo into a consumer product is an assault upon human dignity,” Mohler said as reported by AL.com. 

In late May, the staff of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC sent a letter to the U.S. Senate in which the commission, led by president Brent Leatherwood, noted that the IVF industry and the fertility industry at large “currently operate in the U.S. free from basic regulations and requirements [with] few protections in place for parents or for the embryos created.”

“A human embryo is a life. This life is as deserving of protection and all the standards of care we would give to a child or an adult. In the post-Roe moment we find ourselves in, we must make the most of this opportunity to stand for life in all its forms. We must redouble our efforts to create a culture where the preborn — even at the earliest stage — are seen as essential neighbors in our society worthy of being saved, where parents are served, and where families can flourish,” the letter reads.

“Though I understand the political dynamics that have driven many lawmakers to advocate for IVF ‘protections,’ no political justification should prevail over preventing the destruction of innocent life and the development of robust ethical frameworks in this area.”

The SBC vote comes ahead of an expected vote in the U.S. Senate on Thursday on a bill designed to establish a nationwide right to IVF, which has drawn criticism from some Republicans, who say it could have unintended consequences including the legalization of human cloning. 

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