On April 8, the Vatican issued Dignitas Infinita, a 20-page document rejecting a variety of practices that violate human dignity. Unsurprisingly, these included human trafficking, violence against women, abortion, euthanasia, sex change, and child abuse. It also included surrogacy.

This isn’t the first time the pontificate has come out against this “deplorable” practice, which “fails to respect the dignity of [the] child” and “violates the dignity of the woman.” Pope Francis made waves in January when he condemned surrogacy, noting that “a child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract.”

Evangelical Christians and pastors value the life of the unborn. That’s why we march across the capital on freezing January mornings and pray outside of abortion clinics. Our motivation for child protection must also lead us to confront the ways children are impacted by the baby-making industry as well.

But when did you last hear your pastor address the issue of surrogacy from the pulpit? Odds are, never. Protestants have a dearth of official guidance on reproductive technologies. While some are clear on abortion, very few denominations have clear teachings on IVF, let alone the much rarer practice of surrogacy.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Andrew T. Walker told The New York Times that when he suggested introducing a resolution about artificial reproductive technology at the denomination’s annual convention, his colleagues hesitated.

Some Christians are directly involved in surrogacy and see their role as a calling to help families have children, as CT reported in 2018. But many Christian bioethicists cite concerns. While there’s no Bible verse that commands, Thou shall not hire an economically vulnerable woman to gestate your custom-ordered baby, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t clear biblical guidance on surrogacy for Protestants.

Infertility alone should not guide our thinking, even if longing for children is a God-given desire. Christians have a distinct responsibility to protect children. Thus, when considering reproductive technologies in general, and surrogacy specifically, it is children’s rights and needs that should rank highest.

While there are a variety of adults involved—intended parents, surrogate mothers, sperm/egg sellers, lawyers, fertility doctors—along with their individual interests, from the child’s perspective, surrogacy always requires loss.

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As I’ve detailed elsewhere, surrogacy splices what should be one woman—mother—into three purchasable and optional women: the genetic mother, or egg “donor,” who grants the child their biological identity; the birth mother, with whom the baby develops their first, critical bond; and the social mother, who provides daily female care to maximize the child’s development and satisfy the child’s longing for maternal love.

For children, none of these three mothers are optional. Studies have shown that if children never know their genetic mother, they often experience identity struggles. If they lose their birth mother, some believe that children experience a “primal wound” that makes bonding, trust, and attachment more challenging. And if they are deprived of a social mother, their development is impacted.

No matter what form it takes—traditional or gestational, altruistic or commercial, commissioned by gay or straight adults—surrogacy takes something away from the child. It’s not a loss that results from a fallen world, where parents who cannot or should not care for their child seek to redeem that loss through adoption. It is the infliction of an intentional loss simply because an adult wants it that way. And that violates several biblical mandates.

First, surrogacy goes against God’s protection of children. God insists that his people take child protection seriously. It’s one basis on which Job pleads his innocence: “I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them” (29:12). Child sacrifice is listed among the reasons God condemned Israel to Babylonian exile (Ezek. 16:21). And even if an unborn child was harmed when the mother was accidentally struck, God insisted on proportionate punishment for the offender—an eye for an eye, a life for a life (Ex. 21:22–25). Chief among our concerns for children must be their safety and overall well-being. Surrogacy threatens both.

Second, God’s definition of a religion that is “pure and faultless” includes looking after “orphans … in their distress” (James 1:27). Adoption is one of the greatest ways we care for orphans. As the former assistant director of the largest Chinese adoption agency in the world, I was charged with upholding state, national, and international standards to ensure that adults were properly vetted and screened prior to child placement. We also ensured that money never flowed from intended parents to birth parents; otherwise, it was no longer a valid adoption but child trafficking. In adoption, adults shoulder the load in an attempt to relieve children of the burden of parental loss.

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Surrogacy, on the other hand, often involves legally orphaning children via a “pre-birth order” that preemptively strips children of a relationship with genetic/birth parents. There are no adoption-like requirements for intended parents to undergo screenings, vetting, or background checks. Surrogacy also relies on direct payments to genetic/birth parents, which is arguably a form of child trafficking.

Christians are also called to defend the fatherless. The Old Testament includes dozens of commands to defend and protect the orphan. Children raised outside the protective umbrella of their parents’ lifelong marriage experience drastically diminished physical, mental, academic, and relational health, exploitation, and poverty. In biblical times and now, the fatherless stand out as a demographic deserving of distinct protection because they are distinctly vulnerable.

Never before, however, has humanity faced the phenomenon of “the motherless.” A woman is required to be connected to the child for the first nine months. After birth, biological systems chemically knit together mother and baby, making post-birth abandonment of the child unlikely. Historically, if the mother died during or soon after childbirth, the baby would often die as well. Only surrogacy enables what is utterly foreign to the human race—a motherless baby.

Some surrogacy apologists point to the lack of data on children who grew up from birth without a mother as evidence that there must be no harm. The absence of data is actually the greatest alarm bell. The data on the harms of fatherlessness are well known. The statistics on motherless children, given that children have an even greater bond with their mother during the first three years of life, would likely be much more devastating.

Whenever you read of God’s admonishment to protect the fatherless, it’s safe to assume the mandate applies to the motherless as well. Far from protecting the motherless, surrogacy manufactures the motherless.

Finally, God calls his people to sacrifice for the vulnerable. A biblical meta-principle runs throughout Scripture: The strong are to sacrifice for the weak, not vice versa (Ps. 82:3; Jer. 22:16; Prov. 31:8–9). God warns of cruel punishment for adults who would cause “little ones” to stumble (Matt. 18:6). He demonstrated his “sacrifice for the weak” principle on a cosmic scale when Christ, the strongest of all, died for the ungodly “while we were still powerless” (Rom. 5:6). Surrogacy violates this meta-principle because it always requires the weak (children) to sacrifice for the strong (adults).

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Sisters and brothers of the Reformation, we don’t need a papal encyclical, decree, or motu proprio. We have the all-sufficient Word of God, which directs us to reject any practice or process that victimizes children.

Katy Faust is founder and president of the global nonprofit Them Before Us and coauthor of a book by the same name. She speaks and writes on why marriage and family are matters of justice for children.