RIGHT or WRONG: What about in vitro fertilization?


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My husband and I are in our early 30s and have been married 11 years. We have no children because of my husband’s infertility. Some friends have suggested his brother donate sperm so that I can get pregnant through in vitro fertilization. I know the Old Testament had guidelines for things like this. How should we make our decision?

You are blessed to have good friends who evidently embrace your desire for children. Stay connected with friends and family who care deeply for you, and lean on them as you make pivotal decisions. 

Scripture acknowledges the pain of infertility. For example, Hannah’s anguish in her prayerful plea for a child is described as “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:10). That deep longing for a baby can consume all waking thoughts to the point of toxicity to your spirit. The first step is to assess objectively the reasons you so intensely desire a child.

After you have reconsidered your motives, deliberate the implications of the in vitro fertilization procedure. IVF involves mixing your eggs with your brother-in-law’s sperm. The embryos then are implanted in your uterus. Beyond the “out-of-body” experience in which the egg-sperm union occurs, your question raises two primary ethical concerns. First, the process usually involves creating more embryos than are actually used. While the unused embryos may provide a financially viable option to repeat the procedure in case of failure, the alternative consequence of leftover frozen embryos often proves deeply distressing for couples. The choices of destruction, research or adoption of the embryos introduce significant dilemmas. 

The primary catalyst for your question is the specific relational concern about your husband’s brother. I assume your Old Testament reference stems from the family codes in Leviticus 18. A sexual relationship with your brother-in-law is certainly a violation of Scripture. However, if you equate IVF to sexual relations, wouldn’t any IVF not exclusive to your husband be inappropriate? Taken to its logical conclusion, this interpretation would render IVF an invalid option for all infertile couples. The greatest concern over your brother-in-law’s role is likely not biblical, but rather emotional. You, your husband, your husband’s brother and other family members must be honest about the emotional ramifications of raising a child whose biological father will be another family member.

Prayerfully dissect the reasons why you want a child so much. Are they spiritually and biblically valid? Prayerfully study the repercussions of IVF, including the compulsory decisions that will follow the procedure. Prayerfully discuss the implications of bearing a child whose father is a relative. The decision-making process is demanding; the responsibility of a child is even larger.

Allen Reasons, senior minister

Fifth Avenue Baptist Church

Huntington, W.Va.

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