Ethics and dangers of IVF: Part 1

[notice]In Vitro Fetilisation (IVF) has become a fairly common procedure and a lifeline for many infertile couples. But is there more to this practice than meets the eye? DIANNE STEVEN sounds the alarm on medical, ethical and legal problems associated with IVF. In the first article of a 4-part series she discusses the “abortion link”.[/notice]

Costa Rica is the only country in the world which bans in vitro fertilisation (IVF).This small, predominantly Roman Catholic country in Central America says that IVF breaches the American Convention on Human Rights, which states: “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
While no other nation shares Costa Rica’s legal stance, there are many people around the world who recognise that there is medical, scientific and biblical evidence that from the moment of conception the zygote created is a living person. However many of these people are unaware of exactly what takes place during IVF and how it impacts on zygotes who they recognise as living, human beings.
IVF involves the use of ovulation or fertility drugs. Successful IVF usually requires the fertilisation of multiple eggs – some may not fertilise or develop normally after fertilisation. After retrieval of the egg/s, doctors examine them and decide which of them hold the most potential for a successful pregnancy and the most motile sperm are then added to the eggs in an incubator. The following day, doctors visually confirm fertilisation if they can see two pronuclei. In most cases, they’re observed for two to three days to determine if the development is normal and the resulting healthy embryo/s are transferred to the woman’s uterus. If the embryo/s do attach to the uterine wall, a positive pregnancy test will result, otherwise the zygote (human being) is aborted.

In IVF, doctors typically create multiple embryos and then only implant the healthiest ones. Some of them stick and grow, and some don’t. The embryos that don’t make it to the womb are either frozen for later use or destroyed (killed).
IVF comes with its own unique set of risks. Many people have replaced the truth about IVF’s damaging and destructive processes with the widely accepted notion that conceiving via IVF helps couples with fertility problems and promotes the growth and importance of a family unit.
Here are some talking points on this controversial issue that tend to slip through the cracks:
Abortion link
IVF promotes the discarding of “extra” human embryos – or developing humans. IVF usually entails the creation of multiple human embryos to ensure a greater chance of successful implantation. These human embryos are then screened for genetic disorders, handicaps and sometimes even a particular gender. The “undesirable” embryos are discarded (killed). Normally, an IVF practitioner transfers around four of the selected embryos into a woman’s uterus. If more than one (or two) successfully implant, a physician will selectively abort (kill) the remaining embryos. This selective mentality leads to the death of little humans based on their gender, physical and mental handicaps, and how many exist simultaneously. 
IVF often results in the conception of multiples, which in turn results in selective abortions after implantation. Additionally, a mother pregnant with multiple children is naturally put in the category of high-risk pregnancy. All too often, unchosen embryos are destroyed, thrown out, or washed down the sink ( killed). Therefore, even if a pro-life woman refusing selective abortion carries all IVF-created children, the procedure can create a dangerous situation for herself and her babies.
In each IVF cycle if more embryos are “created” than can be implanted into the uterus of the mother, then the excess embryos are either frozen, for later use, or used in scientific research or discarded; both of the latter are abortion!
IVF fosters the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want it, leaving our all knowing God out of the picture.

  • In Part 2 of this IVF Series, which will be published next week, Dianne Steven writes about IVF-related health risks to babies and mothers. The writer is a registered nurse and midwife, and has a Bachelors degree in Ministry. She has been involved in missions, prison work, ministering to gangsters and drug addicts, and been involved in pro-life work, for the last 20 years.


  1. Hi Dianne,

    Thanks so much for this information. Besides being helpful (by helping us see the ins and outs of this issue) it has restored my faith in the Christian community. I often get the feeling that we are unwilling and unable to engage these issues (generally speaking of course). I look forward to the next installment.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback and I am so glad that it has restored your faith in the Christian community. The high road is very narrow. Blessings

  2. Dr Danie Botha, Port Elizabeth Fertility Unit

    Dear Gateway News EDitor and readers. I am a committed Christian physician and a SPecialist in Reproductive Medicine. I am a regular reader of Gateway news but must unfortunately diagree with your article by Dianne Steven on IVF. We as CHristians can so easily judge others actions and are all to often ready to give our opinions, with , as in this article, total lack of knowledge. First of all I would like to say that we cannot create life, so the fertilization process is God’s work, not t.hat of scientists. We are simply putting the male and female gametes together (IVF) or injecting the sperm cell into the oocyte (ICSI). It is very seldom that more than two embrios are transferred and the remaining embrios are NEVER killed as stated in the article. They undergo degeneration in the laboratory and we know it is because these embrios are genetically abnormal. This is a natural selection process and it happens in vivo (IN the body) during natural fertilization as well. In natural conception, about 50% of embrios undergo natural death in vivo and thus abort, as the author has put it. Furthermore, on embrios is illegal in SOuth AFrica

    • Dear Dr Botha, thanks for your comments. Your views as a fellow Christian and expert in the field are valued. Dianne Steven, the writer of the article is on leave and I am sure she will be interested to comment when she gets back on the 3rd of December. Your remark that she has a “total lack of knowledge” on the topic is not a fair comment. Of course she is not an expert like yourself but she has researched and written the topic in good faith. A simple Google search confirms that there IS a global debate about the ethics of IVF. I hope that you will continue to contribute to the debate in the remaining three articles in the series. We are certainly open to being educated and even corrected regarding IVF in general and its practice in South Africa in particular.

  3. Dr Danie Botha, Port Elizabeth Fertility Unit

    Furthermore, to experiment on embryos ,is illegal in SOuth Africa and it is not done!
    When certain genetic conditions are present in a family, for instance sex linked diseases, these patients are experiencing repetitive miscarriages or are having affected children, genetic screening is then performed on these embryos and normal embryos are then transferred. It is strange how we as CHristians are quick to go for medical help when conditions like appendicitis or car accidents, diabetes are present, but when someone is longing for a baby , we are quick to judge. May I ask our readers what they would do if they or there daughters are infertile due to tubal disease from a ruptured appendix as a child, or there sons are infertile due to chemotherapy for leucaemia. ShouLd these people not also experience GOd’s love through the wonder of medical science given by GOd? Is it in order to use insulin and chemotherapy, but not ovulation induction drugs? infertile people DO NOT choose to be infertile, and we as there CHristian family should be slow to judge them! These are broken people longing for what GOd has put in their hearts, a desire for a child to love. I would suggest that we ask ourselves the question of how we would have reacted if we were in the same position.
    I do not believe that sickness, cancer and pain is from God. I do not believe infertility is from God. As a Christian doctor I will,with God’s help use all my energy and God given talent to help these men and women. May the rest of the body of Christ look with loving eyes and supportive arms towards them. Do not judge when you think you know. Thank you

    • Dr Botha, your point on the pain of infertile couples is of course valid. This is what makes such ethical questions so difficult to resolve. I don’t share your view that Christians are so quick to judge IVF. Yes, there is an ethical debate, but no, I do not see a mob of Christians indulging in a hasty judgment on the issue. It probably falls in the category of good Christian stewardship to ask these questions and to monitor scientific advances. Science and medicine are indeed a blessing from God but can be used for good or evil. As I said in my previous comment, I really welcome you input and “disagreements”.

  4. Thank you Andre for your feedback and I also welcome the open debate. It is good to discuss this with fellow Christians!

  5. I must commend Dr. Botha and Andre. I think its great that Christians can be gracious in their disagreements. Maybe Dr. Botha can write a piece on why he disagrees. I would be interested in reading it.

  6. Im a ordained pastor, but also in the hospitality trade for the last 20 yrs. I can’t say how many couples stayed at my guest apartments the last 20 yrs who came for treatment for IVF. They came from all over the country, as well as the rest of Africa. Interesting to me was that in most of the cases, these couples were all committed Christians who shared their desperate hope for a child with me. So many times they asked me to pray with them before an insemination take place. I personally see these medical surgeons who speciallise in IVF as a gift from God. The joy on these faces if the outcome is positive is unbelievable. Then there were others who could not be helped…and the tears and helplessness were so sad. I even helped one woman, through my ministry contacts to adopt a little girl here. She is now 7 years old, named after me and every two years her mummy bring her to SA to keep her connected to her roots. I think this is a personal decision to make, if the couple have no ethic issues or feel comfortable with it, go for it, if they do not feel comfortable, stay away.