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Southern Baptist Convention Passes Anti-IVF Resolution After Emotional Debate

The resolution also affirmed that all children are a gift from God, regardless of how they are conceived, and expressed sympathy for couples facing infertility.


Following an emotional debate at the annual meeting on Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted to adopt a resolution opposing the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The resolution, put forth by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler, cited a right to life “from the moment of fertilization until natural death” and ethical concerns over the “destruction of embryonic human life.”

The crux of the resolution states, “The messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention … call on Southern Baptists to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation.”

The resolution also affirmed that all children are a gift from God, regardless of how they are conceived, and expressed sympathy for couples facing infertility. 

“I’m really glad this other Baptist Convention was so clear in this resolution, very happy about that,” Mohler told The Federalist. “I think we’re starting a process and we’re gonna have to make moral arguments and make them persuasively right.”

The IVF process requires the fertilization of multiple eggs to increase the chance of laboratory conception and successful implantation. Couples who have leftover embryos they no longer wish to implant may choose to discard or freeze the embryos, often indefinitely. Estimates on the number of embryos currently considered “surplus” in freezers range from 600,000 to 1.5 million in the United States alone. A large percentage of embryos are eventually discarded

The resolution makes these statistics a point of concern. 

“Though all children are to be fully respected and protected, not all technological means of assisting human reproduction are equally God-honoring or morally justified,” reads the resolution. “Human beings are currently stored in cryogenic freezers in an embryonic state throughout the United States, with most unquestionably destined for eventual destruction.”

Many Southern Baptists contend ethical concerns over IVF are consistent with the SBC’s existing guidance on the sanctity of life, which the Baptist Faith and Message asserts begins at conception and, therefore, includes embryos. According to Mohler, this pro-life position is the reasoning behind the proposal. 

“The blunt and unavoidable question is this: Do pro-lifers really believe that ‘unborn children are children?” said Mohler in a recent blog post. “If we really do believe this, how do we reckon with millions of frozen children locked in an indefinite freeze and destined for destruction due to IVF procedures?”

However, there was contention over whether IVF could be used ethically under certain conditions. An amendment was proposed to change the text of the resolution to assert that IVF could be used “in a manner” consistent with a pro-life position, such as transferring all embryos to the mother. 

Zach Sahadak from First Baptist Church in Fairborn, Ohio, argued in favor of the amendment.

“I have a son because of IVF,” Sahadak said. “I am for the sanctity of life and for the safety of embryos. I am against the idea that this technology is so wicked that it cannot be employed.”

Monica Hall, a delegate from Oak Grove Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, disagreed.

“The SBC is known for our strong defense of the sanctity of human life, nothing in the process of IVF upholds the sanctity of life,” Hall said. “There is no way to describe the treatment of embryos at any point in the IVF process as ethical or dignified. 

Mohler addressed the question directly.

“I think there is no way that IVF can be performed without huge moral error,” Mohler told The Federalist. “And yet, I want to acknowledge that there are applications of IVF that are more and less respectful of human dignity.”

Taylor’s amendment was defeated in a vote. Mohler’s resolution condemning IVF passed in its original form moments later. This move makes the Southern Baptist Conventions one of the first protestant denominations to issue firm guidance on IVF.

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