How can a Christian and Prolife advocate choose IVF?
As with most things available to us these days, there are ways that they can be used for good and great things and ways that they can be used for selfish pursuits and evil. There are a lot of papers to sign, decisions to make, and ethical choices to decide on when it comes to IVF.
It involves life and it involves your children.
Both life and your children are the most important and valuable things in the entire world. They are to be cherished, defended, and protected. The decisions that you make as a couple when it comes to IVF can not be taken lightly. They require plenty of research and prayer to make sure you are making the right decision.
People mistakenly assume that IVF is an evil practice because “they’re playing God” through genetic testing or because they’ve heard that embryos are destroyed.Both of these things are possible, but neither of these things are part of the IVF process.
IVF is a long process with many procedures. It is essentially the natural conception process carried out in a laboratory for individuals whose bodies have been unsuccessful in this process. There is nothing structurally different in the process – only in that one takes place entirely inside human bodies. While the other starts insides bodies, takes a brief detour outside of the bodies, then when the time is right jumps back into the bodies for completion. However, this time outside of the body does create some additional questions, and gives opportunity for additional actions that may or may not be moral. I’m going to discuss those new options that this procedure creates, but first wanted to emphasis that they aren’t IVF. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater (Weird idiom?) But, we do want to rightly identify what the issues are, what the Godly response to those issues should be, and how that should shape the decisions that we make regarding IVF.
1)One of the most controversial aspects of IVF is the destruction and abandonment of embryos. It really is a devastating epidemic. Life beings when sperm and egg meet. The exchange of the entire genetic code happens. Life does not begin when you say it does. At 6 weeks? At 12 weeks? When you see a heartbeat? NO. Life begins at conception. Therefore, your fertilized embryo’s need to be cherished and protected just like any of your other children. Through IVF, embryos are being created and parents don’t return for them, meaning they are ultimately destroyed. People need to be educated on when life starts. What it is. When it begins.
Most clinics allow their patients pretty free reign on how they handle their tiny children. Not all of the eggs that are retrieved will successfully fertilize and not all fertilized eggs that are in a uterus will successfully attach (again, this is true whether in a uterus or in a laboratory). The question that IVF creates is what to do with successfully fertilized eggs that are not put back into the uterus. Doctors rightly want to avoid multiples, as this poses a high risk to the mother and the babies, so they won’t insert five embryos into a woman’s body. Because of this, what should we do with “extra” tiny little children?Jim and I are signing papers tomorrow that spell out exactly what we wish. Clearly, we will not be abandoning or destroying our little ones, should we be blessed with more than can be safely put in my uterus. If we have that situation, we’ll be freezing the embryos with excitement for the day that we can continue the process.
However, anytime that you deal with the future, you are really dealing with uncertainty. Our clinicneeds to know what we wishin the event of a super freak situation. Such as, my death, Jim’s death, both of our death, or divorce. There are also time limits on how long our center will hold our frozen embryos(5 years). This is not a technological limitation, but simply a capacity limitation soat that time, if we still haven’t transferred any remainingembryos, wewould needto move them to a long term storage facility.
We will never, EVER destroy embryos. They are life. They are our children. We will implant every single fertilized embryo that we have. Either Jim and I, or Jim, or our parents, would hire a surrogate in the event of a freak accident to carry our children. We will never dispose of, donateto “research”, or abandon our embryos.If we fertilize eggs and begin a process, we are obligated to see that process to its end.
2)Another controversial aspect of IVF and really, any fertility treatment, is the possibility of multiples and the option to choose “selective reduction,” also known as MFPR, multi-fetal pregnancy reduction. They consider a pregnancy with more than 2 fetuses to be an adverse outcome of infertility treatment, so if you are one of the .0013% of people who ends up with triplets, this could be offered to you. It doesn’t mean you have to do it! Of course, you shouldn’t.
We will never, EVER choose selective reduction. Fortunately, this isn’t 1991 and Dr’s don’t stuff 6 embryos into your uterus anymore hoping that they will take. Our office will only implant 1 or 2. Over the last few years RRC has changed how they do IVF. Instead of a traditional 3 day transfer, they now do 5 day transfers. This allows the embryo to develop further to better show which eggs fertilized successfully and thushelp the Dr. to know which embryos to implant. Dr’s don’t have to guess which eggs will implant and hope that some of the eggs have been fertilized. They can see which have been successful,andtherefore transfer fewer embryoswithout reducing the pregnancy success rates. If we ever found ourselves in a high risk multiples situation, we would never ever choose selective reduction. We will always keep all of our children.
3)And lastly, there is the option to genetically screen your embryos.
We opt out of any and all genetic screening. We view this the same way as we view NT scans during pregnancy. We want our children no matter how they come to us. However God has created them. There isn’t a test result in the world that would make us change our minds about that. We will treat our embryos with value and respect as our children
So, in conclusion, I hope that you have noticed something with each of the issues with IVF: none of them are the process of IVF. They might be choices that come with IVF, but the process itself is no different than the resulting process of an man and woman coming together. God created things and He also created how those things work. He created life. He also built the framework for our participation in that. He made it so that when an egg meets a sperm they share DNA and a life begins. He made it so that the small child can make his/her way into the uterus and then grow for 9 months. All of those truths are the same whether it starts in a bedroom for some blessed to not need any help, or whether it starts with a Dr’s visit and involves medicine and outside assistance. As I’ve said previously, our bodies have deficiencies all the time and we accept medical aid. Whether it’s setting a broken bone or taking antibiotics or getting cancer treatment.
We’re so thankful that we live in the age that we do. The medical community at its core champions life. For most of human history this has been expressed by trying to extend life: healing wounds and caring for the sick. We have come such an incredibly long way in that department, and as Christians we applaud the efforts of those that advance this endeavor. But now, thanks to incredible and amazing technology, we’ve actually been able to extend that help into creating life, rather than just helping those already here. Does that not fit beautifully within the earthly mission of medicine? Does that not reflect something that Christians should celebrate? We get so caught up in the effort to fight abortion that we knee jerk and target IVF because of embryo destruction, completely missing the fact that it isn’t IVF. We’re missing the opportunity to celebrate life! To cheer on previously barren parents and have exceeding joy over children that would not be here with us without this tremendous procedure that doctors have labored for years to bring us. Doctors are now helping bring more little boys and girls into the world than we would have had, praise God! If Jim and I had been born 50 years ago, we wouldn’t have this opportunity. Just like cancer patients born in the Middle Ages.
We are thrilled to be able to try and rejoice in the ways that doctors are bringing new life into the world and displaying the glory of God’s creation!