Christians hold a range of views on Alabama Supreme Court ruling, IVF treatment

Even among religious groups that seek to ban abortion, many do not agree the destruction of frozen embryos is the same as taking a life.

When Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker issued his concurring opinion earlier this month in the court’s controversial ruling declaring frozen embryos children, he did so with an unapologetically faith-based flair.

The Feb. 16 ruling — which has resulted in all but halting in vitro fertilization procedures, which can use frozen embryos to help people become pregnant, in the state — concluded embryos created during IVF have the same rights as children.

Parker noted Alabama was modeling a “theologically based view of the sanctity of life” that noted “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

Meanwhile, Southern Baptists such as Andrew T. Walker, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have called on the SBC to adopt an official resolution addressing IVF at its next convention later this year.

“When you consider the moral goods that Scripture holds as inseverable for where conception ought to occur, IVF is ruled out,” Walker posted on X earlier this month.

Religious views on fertility treatments

While personal views on IVF can be difficult to assess, there seems to be broad familiarity with the practice among religious groups.

When Pew Research asked adult respondents last year whether they have used fertility treatments to have children or know anyone who has, white Catholics were the mostly likely to say yes (55%), followed by white mainline Protestants (48%), white evangelicals (44%) — all higher percentages than those who identified as atheist or claimed no particular religion (40%).

Hispanic Catholics (29%) and Black Protestants (26%) were the least likely to say they used fertility treatments or know someone who has, although Pew researchers told Religion News Service that finding “appears to be driven more by differences across race and ethnicity than religion.”

In addition, the researchers elsewhere noted wealthier people are more likely to say they’ve used fertility treatments or know someone who has, an “unsurprising” finding given the high cost of IVF, which can range from $15,000 to $20,000.

Some of the outspoken opinions on IVF fall along predictable lines, mirroring that of the abortion debate. Religious advocates for abortion rights support IVF, and the Catholic leadership opposes it.

Denominational views on IVF

But IVF is arguably a narrower issue: Even among religious groups that seek to ban abortion, many do not agree the destruction of frozen embryos is the same as taking a life. Some mainline denominations do not even have an official position on IVF, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Other groups openly have praised the practice, particularly more liberal-leaning mainline denominations.

The Episcopal Church has endorsed IVF since 1982, and the United Church of Christ passed a resolution at its 1989 General Assembly that referenced IVF before declaring the denomination “supports the rights of families to make decisions regarding their use of the reproductive technologies.”

Even denominations that have expressed ambivalence about abortion have nonetheless voiced openness to IVF.

Although the United Methodist Church has issued statements saying it is “reluctant to approve abortion” and declared in 2016 that people “should not create embryos with the sole intention of destroying them,” it grants an exception for IVF.

A UMC denominational resolution stated that “obtaining and fertilizing multiple ova may be justified” even if embryos are lost, because it helps “avoid the necessity of multiple attempts to obtain ova.”

Political lines

There also is evidence evangelicals support IVF, at least according to Republican officials.

In the wake of the Alabama ruling, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a memo discouraging candidates from voicing agreement with the decision.

According to Politico, the memo cited a survey conducted in October by a consulting firm associated with Kellyanne Conway, former President Donald Trump’s onetime senior counselor, that found 83% of evangelicals support IVF.

Attempts to reach the polling firm associated with Conway, The Polling Co., were unsuccessful.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story, which has been edited for length and brevity, was written by Jack Jenkins and originally published by Religion News Service


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