The Barren Womb and IVF Part 2 - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonApologetics - A Reasoned Defense of the Christian Faith
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How should we think about IVF? Continued…
“…but Hannah had no children.” 1 Samuel 1:2
There are many who have been affected by the Lord’s providence in being barren. My wife is one of them. It was my position to set forth my biblical understanding of the situation concerning IVF since my wife and I are in the same dilemma as thousands of others concerning the desire for children. In checking through supplementary research, I have found that certain instances of IVF are ethically and biblically acceptable, depending on the doctor you are dealing with. Let me explain.
This is not a retraction in any way of the former paper written on IVF. That still stands as it is administered in that way. However, I have found that certain doctors will heed the requests of the patient and the manner in which this procedure can take shape. There are a number of new points, then, to consider.
First, naturally speaking, male sperm and female eggs are not human beings until the male sperm fertilizes the female egg and conception occurs. It is important to note that men lose millions of sperm every day due to increased body temperature or restrictive under garments. This occurs naturally because sperm that are created daily are continually in cycle and so die off eventually if not “used.” In the same way the female egg that is created in the menstrual cycle is also “discarded” during menstruation if it is not fertilized by a male sperm. So to keep this in mind, naturally speaking, these cells die off constantly through the cycle of life by men and women. There are no thoughts, whatsoever, that God, naturally speaking, is killing people in the loins of men or the eggs of women. Conception, or the joining of the two, at that time, is altogether different. That is where abortion issues are raised.
Secondly, if a doctor were to take an egg from a women, and freeze it, that would not mean he is freezing a human being. In that case, he is simply freezing a female egg, or cell. In the same way, when men donate sperm (which is another topic altogether) the doctor in that case freezes the sperm to conserve it. Millions of sperm are contained in a single container, but none of them, in either case, are human beings. This is important to note.
Thirdly, IVF does not have to include experimentation on any of these frozen cells. In other words, a woman could, in good conscience have her eggs frozen, and a man could have his sperm frozen, and make a statement concerning the use of those cells. They could, and should, tell the doctor that those cells are not to be experimented on or used for any other purpose than IVF for that particular couple. The doctor must recognize this. And this, then, goes back to having a good doctor who listens.
Fourthly, regularly, IVF involves the fertilization of 4 or 5 eggs. The woman would take special medication during her cycle and this medication would create a number of extra eggs (about 10-20) during any one cycle. They are then frozen, except for 4 or 5, and those 5 are fertilized by the husband’s sperm artificially; or by the doctor. Those 5 are then human beings – fertilized by the hand of the doctor, but just as viable as any conception in the womb. Conception has begun. Out of those 5 fertilized human beings the parents choose 2 or 3 to have implanted in the womb, and then they conceive with a very high ratio of conception. The possibility of losing one of those conceived human beings is just as great as if naturally conceived. God’s providence rules in that arena.
Here is where the “addendum” to all of this comes in: the parents do not have to choose that 5 eggs be fertilized. They can simply choose one or 2 to have fertilized, and then implanted in the womb. That way, no loss of human life occurs except that which his simply governed by God in the womb of the mother. In other words, the parents have the right to stop the use of those cells at any point, and the doctor must be made aware that only the numbers of fertilized eggs they choose are to be actually fertilized, and implanted in the womb. Then, the request is made that the rest of the cells are discarded since they should not be used for any kind of “embryonic” experimentation. In this way, there is no harm to any life, and IVF could be something that could help those who are barren in this instance.
I find no biblical warrant, if these important notations are considered, for any kind of ethical dilemma to occur if the doctor willingly submits to the requests of the parents in this matter. Hopefully this will be of help to those struggling through the issue.