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With the recent Alabama ruling that granted embryos the same protections as children, Christians are being faced with the ethics of IVF and how to handle that within their own faith. Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) wrote a letter to the US Senate urging for federal protections of embryos. “We urge legislators to develop and implement a system of federal oversight that protects and informs women and ensures embryos are treated with care, even as we oppose the general practice of IVF,” wrote Leatherwood. The ERLC also published a pamphlet urging Christians to stay away from IVF. “Though we should be hesitant to call it sin, it is morally ambiguous enough to be problematic and should be discouraged as a matter of wisdom and prudence,” the document stated.  The Catholic church also recently reaffirmed its position against IVF and surrogacy.

Yet for some Christians, the discussion presents some personal conundrums. A recent Associated Press article presented several Christian families, who all agree that embryos deserve protections, but also struggle with their own infertility. One couple, Kelly and Alex Pelsor of Indianapolis, turned to IVF after two years of struggling to get pregnant on their own. The retrieval procedure retrieved 5 eggs from Kelly and the Pelsors’ daughter was born March 2022. She ended up miscarrying the extra embryo that doctors were able to implant. Amanda Walker of New Mexico had to face the decision of what to do with two extra embryos after she had 3 successful pregnancies and 5 miscarriages. She said she felt some women who turn to IVF are naïve about the process and create too many embryos, leaving them with the difficult decision of what to do. “We didn’t want to destroy them. We believe that they are children,” she said.

Some couples turn to adopting embryos rather than facing the ethical implications of egg retrieval. The Walkers were able to get connected to a family through Snowflakes, a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, to find adoptive parents for their extra embryos. The Earle family adopted 13 embryos that had been frozen twenty years earlier, one of which has since been born. “God can use everything to His glory. There’s certainly an aspect that you consider with IVF: the ethics of freezing more embryos than you need. … But for families who struggle with infertility, it’s a beautiful opportunity,” said Sam Earle. While all the families interviewed struggled with the implications of IVF, many stated they don’t want to see IVF done away with completely. Caroline Harries, who has yet to decide how she and her husband will start their family, said the Alabama ruling raised some important questions. “It adds this level of responsibility for both the clinicians and the patients to think through: OK, what are we going to do with these embryos? It maybe even adds this level of awareness to the gravity of the situation that these couples find themselves in.”

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