IVF | Pro-Life 101

Why Pro-Life?

We rejoice in the birth of every child. Without a doubt, a child born as the result of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure is a blessing. Yet, that blessing is overshadowed by the number of children that had to die to bring about a live birth.

Sometimes the large numbers of successful births using IVF cloud the reality that those successes come at a great cost.

Science, as does Scripture, establishes that life begins at conception. Whether that conception occurs naturally within the fallopian tube of a woman’s body or artificially in a Petri dish in a medical laboratory, it is still life.

IVF 101

WHAT IS IVF?

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Mechanical retrieval of eggs and sperm from the human body, which are then placed together in a laboratory dish to fertilize. After fertilization occurs, the developing embryos are screened for genetic diseases and those embryos who do not meet healthy specifications are destroyed. Several days after fertilization, the healthy embryos are transferred to the uterus where it is hoped they will implant into the uterine wall. While in vitro fertilization is a popular procedure its over all success rate is low.

RELATED TERMS

  • Donor Egg IVF
  • Egg Retrieval
  • Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
  • Embryo Transfer

IVF STATISTICS

On July 25, 1978, the first baby using IVF was born. Quickly dubbed by the press as the world’s first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown – was born in Lancashire, England. In the 45 years that have passed, over eight million children have been born through the IVF process. As of 2019, this procedure was performed over 2.5 million times each year, resulting in about 500,000 annual births. Now, do the math: 500,000 ÷ 2,500,000 = 20%

20% of IVF procedures provide a live birth. That means 80% of the time it does not result in a live birth meaning, 80% of the time the procedure ends in death. Eighty percent of newly-created lives do not survive until live birth.

FAQs

QUESTION: Does in vitro fertilization ALWAYS result in discarding (aborting) some embryos? Is this something a couple who had used this process would be aware of?

ANSWER: No, the process doesn’t always result in embryos being discarded — although, often, a doctor will transfer embryos to the woman’s uterus with the hope that at least one will implant. There are situations in which multiple embryos will survive and grow. At that point, the couple will have to decide whether to abort or carry multiple children.

Many times the additional spare eggs are frozen, to be kept for use at a later date in the event the first implantation attempt doesn’t work. It is a costly procedure for a couple to have artificial fertilization. That’s why many couples choose to have extra embryos fertilized.

Generally, several embryos are frozen and placed in “storage” after a successful pregnancy has taken place.

What a couple has to deal with is what to do with the remaining embryos. There are countless stories of abandoned embryos left in storage. There are many ethical questions regarding the legal rights of parents over them. Can they be willed to a child, given to a friend, etc? But, the fact remains that a child is conceived and is waiting to be born.

QUESTION: If no embryos are discarded or frozen, what ethical concerns about IVF still confront the Christian?

ANSWER: The most obvious concern is the low success rate for in-vitro fertilization. While there is a great variety in the way IVF clinics cite statistical success, the general rule is that up to 40 percent of women who go into IVF centers do not get to the point of embryo transfer because they fail to respond to medication. There is an approximate 20 percent success rate for IVF based on embryo transfer. In general, of those who enter IVF programs, success rate is 8 percent.

Failure to bear a child takes an emotional toll on many couples. Even with a successful embryo transfer into the womb, the odds of that new unborn child dying (four out of five) are just too great for Christians to proceed.

QUESTION: If I have undergone a successful or unsuccessful IVF procedure, was I wrong?

ANSWER: Perhaps yes, and perhaps not. Statistics indicate averages. Some fare much better than others. Statistics, however, provide us insight as to how risky a procedure can be for the mother and child. There is the possibility (a 20 percent chance) that your first IVF attempt is successful. That fact must be contrasted with the reality that most people would be critical of someone who risks the death of any child (born or unborn) when the odds are four out of five of the time the child will die.

Featured Podcast Episode

In this podcast episode, hosts Rev. Robert Fleischmann, Rev. Jeffrey L. Samelson, and Christa Potratz discuss what Christians should consider when looking at embryo adoption and IVF. Click here to listen now.

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Scripture teaches that life exists already at conception (Psalm 51:5). Biologically speaking, once an egg is fertilized with sperm the only changes that occur are maturity and geography. From that point of fertilization, all you have are different stages of life. There is not some later stage where it becomes life.

In the IVF arena, doctors will talk about a pregnancy beginning at implantation of the developing embryo. That may be the case because of the major changes that occur upon implantation but the real changes already begin at fertilization. Pregnancy, or implantation, is simply one more step along the process.

It is a biological fact of life that if permitted to naturally develop, upon fertilization the embryo will always be human. It does not become human at a later stage. Admittedly, there are different stages of life as we visibly see in a distinction between children and parents, young and old. But again, those are simply stages of human life.

That all being said, our concern with IVF is any process that treats human life in the embryonic stage as anything less than a human being. Often, the IVF arena involves “tossing out” developing embryos if they look to be of poorer quality than other embryos. Parents undergoing IVF procedures often face poor statistical chances of having a baby in their arms. The way statistics are promoted by IVF companies is atrocious. Some will tout incredible success rates when, in fact, they had twisted both the data and definitions of success.

Regardless of how statistics are formulated, the process of IVF has a greater than 50% chance of being fatal on the developing embryo. Most people I know, when considering the value we place on human life, would not gamble with those odds.

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