For many infertile couples and unmarried women, in vitro fertilization sounds like a Godsend. In vitro fertilization is the act of fertilizing a woman's egg outside the body. (In vitro means "in glass," reflecting how the first scientific trials of the method were done). The egg is then placed in a woman's uterus at the time in her cycle when the embryo is most apt to implant. Ideally, pregnancy will soon occur.
There is nothing unbiblical about harvesting eggs from a woman. There is nothing unbiblical about fertilizing those eggs and implanting them. And there is nothing unbiblical about the fact that many of those fertilized eggs will not implant; God is in control of even man-assisted pregnancies. But there are a few major issues that must be taken into consideration.
The first comes into play when more than one fertilized egg implants. It is common to transfer multiple embryos into the prospective mother at one time; every attempt is expensive and time consuming, and transferring multiple embryos increases the chance at least one will implant and survive. There have been several high-profile pregnancies in which many eggs implanted and the mother, driven by conviction, carried them all to term. But in most cases, all but one or two implanted eggs are removed for the health of both the mother and the remaining embryos. This is basically abortion.
The second issue is similar. Invariably, more eggs will be fertilized than will be used. Although there are programs such as "adopt an embryo," which allows other women to use left-over embryos from other couples, and cryogenic freezing of embryos, which maintains their relative viability, in the end, most unneeded embryos will be destroyed. If life begins at conception, this is also abortion.
Another issue is that of embryo profiling and selection. As genetic profiling becomes more sophisticated, scientists will be better able to determine what genetic characteristics an embryo carries. This naturally leads to the abandonment and destruction of those embryos who do not carry the characteristics the parents desire. While some may consider this a grace, children with genetic defects such as Downs Syndrome are just as loved by God as healthy children. And genetic profiling is already being used to cull embryos based on gender. That a child would be allowed to die for such trivial reasons is a horror no matter what her age.
In vitro fertilization is not forbidden for Christians. It should just be used judiciously and conservatively. For many parents, the resultant children are a great blessing. But above the desire for parenthood, Christians should always consider God's leading for their lives and the well-being of all children, even those still in the embryonic stage.
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