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The Overlooked Ethics of Reproduction

Sep 6 2013
Why don't Christians see IVF and surrogacy as moral issues?

A recent Pew Research study found Americans largely do not see in vitro fertilization as a moral issue. Adults across religious traditions, including evangelicals, are more likely to say IVF "is not a moral issue" than they are to take a position for or against it.

While grieving with those who struggle with infertility, Christians still need to look more carefully at today's reproductive technologies such as IVF in light of our beliefs about God, life, our bodies, and our children.

Since the time of the Old Testament, infertility has been part of the human experience. Many of us know someone who has struggled desperately to have a child or have experienced that difficulty ourselves. In the 21st century, though, infertility is met with "options," "solutions," and countless technologies offering hope to those in our midst struggling with fertility issues. Rather than rushing to embrace any procedure that might bring us a child—IVF, sperm or egg donors, surrogacy—we should consider the appropriate use and limits of technology.

The fact that so many people fail to consider the moral implications of IVF suggests that in the age of fertility treatments, surrogates, and modern family-building via parenting partnerships, a woman's womb has come to be seen as a somewhat arbitrary location. NBC's The New Normal quips that women are "Easy-Bake Ovens" and children are "cupcakes."

In Scripture, God affirms that what happens in utero matters and cannot be casually or disrespectfully dismissed. The womb, where God first knits us together (Ps. 139:13-14), is not an arbitrary place for a child to grow and develop. In fact, modern science has proven just how important those 9 months are—for both mother and child.

Renowned marriage and family therapist Nancy Verrier, in her book The Primal Wound, writes about how mothers are biologically, hormonally, and emotionally programmed to bond with their babies in utero as well as at birth. A baby knows his or her mother at birth, and both the mother and the baby will experience grief at any separation at the time of birth. This primal wound is forever present.

In other words, it's nowhere as easy as the Easy-Bake metaphor. In the case of surrogacy, we can interrupt the natural rhythm for mother and child and risk negative effects. (It is worth noting that surrogacy differs from adoption in that surrogacy intentionally establishes a situation that demands that a woman not bond with the child she is carrying.)

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