In 1978, people heard news about the world’s first “test tube baby,” Louise Joy Brown. Since that time, the number of children conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) has grown exponentially, as has the popularity of the practice, bringing with it major ethical questions.
One such ethical question is “What do parents of embryos (children) created during IVF that are not implanted in the womb do with them?” The answer to that question from a company out of Australia has brought outrage and headlines.
According to news sources, since 2014, a company called Baby Bee Hummingbird have crafted more than “4,000 pieces of jewelry using breastmilk, placenta, hair, ashes or cord stumps—including 50 made with embryos.”
You read that right, this company is helping parents turn their offspring, their own children, into custom jewelry. Jewelry! One news story talked about a family who did this.
“After a six-year IVF journey to receive miracles Lachlan, 4, and 21-month-old twins Charlotte and William, Belinda and Shaun Stafford didn’t know what to do with their remaining embryos. Their babies. Donation wasn’t an option, the annual storage fee was an added financial strain, and disposing of them unimaginable.
“So when the… couple heard about Baby Bee Hummingbirds… they jumped at the chance. Now Ms. Stafford has all of her babies with her every day—including seven embryos in her heart-shaped pendant worn close to her heart, always.”
It is not hard to see why this is a moral outrage, what one Southern Baptist leader called “pure evil.” What can be harder to see, though, are the everyday moral challenges fraught with the IVF process.
If, as Christians, we believe that life begins at conception, we face a real dilemma in that many are actively creating children (embryos) who may never see a mother’s womb, let alone their first birthday.
Some people choose to donate so-called “leftover” embryos to scientific research, but such Frankenstein thinking is clearly life-destroying and delves into experimenting on humans.
Other IVF participants are willing to donate their embryos to other couples who may wish to adopt them. While this seems to be a noble notion, the supply of frozen embryos far outstrips the line of people waiting in line to adopt them. In the meantime, thousands of children await their fate in a freezer.
When thinking of IVF, it is incumbent on Christians to apply a Christian worldview to the whole scenario. First, we must recognize the extreme weight and deep sadness of infertility and pray for the people in this very difficult situation, as they pursue their desire to have children.
Secondly, we can point to the thousands of children here and around the world who await foster parents or adoption, knowing adoption is not a lesser means of having children but an equally great one.
Next—and this is extremely important—Christians must celebrate every child that is born into this world, be it by IVF or natural means. These things being done, Christians must also learn to compassionately, but with conviction, realize the dangers and pitfalls of IVF.
Years ago, Italy passed a law that prevented couples from fertilizing eggs that would not be implanted in the mother’s womb. This more conservative IVF approach would be an improvement over the tactics in America.
Moreover, we must step back and remember that Christians do not view life as mere animal reproduction, but we believe in what Christians call procreation.
The very notion of procreation keeps us rooted in the God-given Genesis view of a one-flesh union (Gen. 2:24), whereas a worldview of animal reproduction leads us to view offspring as products of a process; or worse, as a commodity as we see in Australia.
In his famous inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “Space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own.” Since the arrival of Louise Joy Brown to today, biological science has also shown it has no conscience of its own.
Therefore, it is we Christians who must humbly apply biblical truth to every scientific discovery and process, including IVF. That is true for the people in the Land Down Under, as it is here in the United States. God help us…