Ethics and dangers of IVF: Part 3

[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 third article of a 4-part series she looks at IVF through the lens of certain Biblical and legal considerations.[/notice]

Suggestions that In Vitro Fertilisation is contrary to Biblical teaching comes from a rather surprising source — a former leading IVF practitioner, Anthony Caruso whose views are shared in articles published by Lifesite News.Com. Caruso, a Catholic living in the United States, says he was horrified when he realised that his efforts to help women struggling with infertility were actually counterintuitive to the Biblical design of marriage and view of children. In an article published in June 2011 he says that IVF works against the self-sacrificial nature of a marriage and a family, putting an IVF practitioner and, ultimately, a conceiving couple, in control of something meant to have a natural design. Commenting on a typical practice of transfer a maximum of four embryos in each fertility treatment, and selectively aborting the children if more than one or two survive, he says IVF leads to the “objectification” of children.

“You’d be surprised how many people get to 23, 24 weeks, that used IVF, and have complications with their pregnancies,” he says. “And they say, ‘OK, fine. Just let it go.’ Because essentially they can just go back and do it again.”

Click on banner to register

In an article published in August 2012 the reproductive endocrinologist tells Lifesite that “One of the basic purposes of marriage is blurred with IVF. Children as gifts from God have become desires and pawns in the life process. … Every child is a gift from God. However, the process that brought them into existence has led to an attitude towards the embryo that is no different than any other commodity.”

Is IVF acceptable in the light of Biblical understanding about the status of the human embryo? (The Bible makes no distinction between a born and an unborn baby as illustrated by the Greek word, “brephos”, used to describe both the intrauterine baby Jesus (Luke 1:44) and the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12). Should we not consider the deliberate killing of a human being to be murder, whether it is in the womb, or in a Petri dish , or after birth?

Exodus 21:22-25 speaks about, ‘if you hurt a pregnant woman, and she has a miscarriage and the baby dies, then you shall give a life for a life!’ The Bible makes it clear that God views human life as beginning at conception, and that throughout the process of development within the womb, a baby has the same right to life as an adult.

Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to find contentment in our circumstances and not pursue selfishness. Does this not include going against God’s natural order to fall pregnant no matter the consequences?

Legal implications
IVF and surrogacy may have all sorts of legal complications and consequences to consider as well.

Mark Langridge, a gay man in the UK  became friendly with a lesbian couple in 1997. He agreed to donate sperm so that one of them could bear children. There was a clear understanding that he would not be involved in raising or supporting the children. A court has ordered him to pay maintenance for two children he fathered through this arrangement. Langridge has now discovered that the law is quite clear about private sperm donations before 2009. Only anonymous sperm donors, at licensed centres, are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation. This has never applied to men who donate sperm as part of a personal arrangement. Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child by law, regardless of whether both their names are entered on to the birth certificate.”

Fertility specialists state that a woman younger than 35, on average, generates only eight to 10 embryos a cycle, and has one or two embryos transferred, while another three are usually frozen. CNN reports that in the US there is currently no federal legislation mandating what happens to embryos. “At one extreme, we could be accused of homicide, or negligent homicide, because we’re not taking care of an embryo. At the more reasonable level, we could be considered negligent in general”.

What is the legal future with IVF? Could a ‘Personhood Statute’ impact IVF? Human life begins with fertilisation, and bills that could criminalize in vitro fertilization will cause specialists to fear that if a bill like this becomes law, it would prompt doctors to limit the number of eggs they take from a donor, as well as the number of embryos they create. Physicians fear that limiting what happens to the embryos may in turn hinder how physicians work. So both the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and Resolve oppose personhood legislation. “If one of these bills pass and a physician or lab tech drops an embryo on the floor, have they just committed homicide? Manslaughter?” asked Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

“In a typical in vitro cycle, there’s more than one embryo created,” explained Dr Daniel Shapiro, a fertility specialist with Reproductive Biology Associates. Shapiro went on, “If you’re being safe and cautious, you only put one embryo – at most two – back into a patient at a time. So what happens with the leftover embryos? Many of them are frozen, and many of them are never used.”

Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, agrees that a personhood statute would change IVF. “I do believe that declaring a pre-born, ‘a baby’, could impact IVF,” Mason says.

IVF also threatens to transform procreation into a consumer activity. The problem of ‘biological colonialism’ is very severe and growing.


  1. Dr Danie Botha, Port Elizabeth Fertility Unit

    Dear Andre
    I have respected your news and opinions and enjoyed every issue. Howver, I am of the opinion that Gateway news is making a mistake by critisizing IVF in this way.
    Gateway is not and should not be a scientific Journal, yet everything said should at least be true and reflecting the complete picture.
    You are publishing a series, written by someone not involved in infertility management with clearly no scientific approach to the topic.
    You cannot just Google “side effects of IVF” and write an article. It is totally non representative of all the facts . This series is clearly an attack on IVF based on the pre conceived ideas of it being wrong and then uses a CHristain media publication to speak out on her behalve.
    What have you as EDitor done to verify her statements? Where are her references?
    If you want to view an opinion on aspects of modern life as I fully support we as the Body of Christ should do, we must at least make sure that our facts are based on good evidence and not hearsay.
    I would urge the author to advise us as CHristian physicians and fellow CHristian patients dealing with infertility, what to do.
    By slamming IVF with giving only one side of the story, incorrect data and old dated guidelines, this is taking away the credibility of Gateway News as a responsible media channel.
    I do accept that you may differ from me, but based on which facts ?
    We must be very careful not to move back to the Middle AGes where science and the Church was opposing each other.
    As CHristains we should be slow to form an opinion , we must be careful not to use the WOrd of GOd tomsupport our ideas and we must stand firm in our commitment in following CHrist in everything we do.
    Why do you not write about the good things comming from IVF treatment as well? We all believe GOd creates life, only GOd. If IVF is then such an unholy practise, is GOd then forced by Doctors to create life in the laboratory against HIs SOvereign will?
    Why are you over and over concentrating on the “killing of embryos” when that is not happening in SOuth AFrica in accredited IVF UNits? Any act, any work done, even CHurch activities can be wrong if not done in the spirit but in the flesh. Even missionary work. Yet, we are not only focusing on the negative aspects all the time, we are enjoying the good coming from these activities together with the people working and the people receiving as a result.
    Why then this negative view on IVF published by Gateway News. Remember, you are respected as a Christian portal and will therefore be a opinion former. That responsibility should at least include verifying facts. Thank you.

    • Dear Danie. Thank for your comments and your fair challenge to our reporting integrity. Dianne’s articles, which are supported by links to her sources, raise concerns about IVF from a Christian, pro-life perspective. However you do make a valid case for presenting an alternative Christian and scientific perspective. Would you be prepared to write an article that provides those different perspectives and which inform us about the situation in South African IVF units?

      • Dr Danie Botha, Port Elizabeth Fertility Unit

        Dear Andre.
        Thank you for your reply. I will gladly write an article on IVF, different techniques and the moral issues facing Christians. I do not have the answers to all questions raised but would do my best to give the other side of the story as objective as possible.,Can I do it over the holidays for next year,?
        Regards. Danie Botha