Should Christians use in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other methods of assisted reproduction?

In 1977 Louise Brown was conceived in a petri dish with the assistance of Doctors Steptoe and Edwards in the UK. She was born 25 July 1978 as the first "test tube baby in the world." IVF treatment is widely used in the UK, where slightly more than1% of babies born are made that way. It is legal, but should infertile Christian couple go down this route to secure a child.

Much of the drive for IVF comes from an understandable desire to have a biological child of one's own. There are also almost no babies to adopt at birth, only about 200 per year in the UK , with a couple of hundred thousand couples per year having difficult conceiving. The 1967 Abortion Act is the main culprit here, where 180,000 unborn babies are killed under this Act each year, mainly as they are not wanted.

Many Christian have asked me if IVF is acceptable. Before I reply I would like to say that a cousin of mine has twin daughters from IVF and I love these relations just as much as my other family members. However just because something is legal does not mean it is morally acceptable to a Bible believing Christian.

Firstly we should consider when a human life begins. Science is very clear; it is when the egg and sperm united to form a unique new individual, at fertilisation. If you are an identical twin then you split from your other twin up to about 10 days later. The concept of a human body with a soul poured in at a later stage comes from ancient Greek philosophy and is not a Christian view. The scriptures indicate that we are unitary beings .You are also made in the image of God at this point, or how else are we unitary beings. There is no logical point at which you become an individual human being other than at fertilisation or splitting if you are an identical twin.

From a Biblical perspective there is a very interesting passage in Luke 1: 43. Here Elizabeth calls the Virgin Mary a mother. She is a between two to five days pregnant with the Lord Jesus. You cannot be a mother unless you have a child. The only child that could be referred to was the tiny embryo Jesus. Another interesting passage is Ps. 51:5, where David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says that he was "sinful from the time my mother conceived me". How can a non-person be a sinner? Surely only persons are sinners. So if we are human beings, body and soul, from fertilisation, then we deserve protection, as it is wrong to kill innocent human beings ( Ex. 20 : 13 )

The arguments to justify IVF are as follows: You really do not count as a human being until you have implanted in your mother's womb, 5 to 7 days after fertilisation in your mother's fallopian tube. There is also a claim that up to 80% of embryos do not implant. Therefore you do not count until implantation. This is the view of the World Health Organisation that claims the " Pregnancy begins at implantation ".However the argument would be the same as saying that if under 5 year olds had a mortality of 80% then children under 5 years of age are not human. So to deny the human embryo personhood prior to implantation just because of their death rate is just nonsense.

So how many embryos die to produce a healthy child? Some studies in Australia and New Zealand show a live birth rate to embryos at 4.4. So around 96 embryos die or are killed for 4 live births. The reasons for this massive loss of life are many. Firstly the woman is given very powerful drugs to over stimulate her ovaries (The long term detrimental effects of this drug is unknown). Then they are harvested using a laparoscope, which is a tube inserted into the woman's abdomen, with a light and microscopic lens on the end. The eggs are then found and sucked up this tube. Sometimes up to 10 eggs can be harvested. They are then placed in a petri dish, with a culture medium and mixed with sperm. When fertilisation occurs the doctor looks to see which ones appear to be developing normally. All the abnormal ones are discarded and die. Only the good-looking ones are implanted. Then you have the dilemma of how many to place in the womb. In the UK this is limited to three. If many of the embryos look healthy, and only 2 or 3 are placed in the womb, then the others are frozen. If the first cycle does not produce a born child, then the frozen embryos are thawed. Many die just as a result of the thawing process. Then you are left with the enormous dilemma of what to do with the frozen embryos. For some of these the parents cannot be found, or they divorce, and the father does not want the mother to have the child as he would have to pay child support. These are just a few of the moral dilemmas we face with IVF.

God is the giver and maker of life ( Ps.139:13 - 18 ) . Man is trying to take the place of God by making babies. Going down the IVF route can lead to much more heart ach than not having children. I know many infertile Christian couples that have accepted their infertility and not tried IVF. Many have had wonderful ministries with young people and have many "adopted "children.