Thursday, November 25, 2004

Evangelicals believe in conception at implantation

Working off of Rick Warren’s list of the 5 most important values for an evangelical to consider in the last election, I wish to take on the idea that abortion and, to a lesser extent stem cell research, is as clear cut as it would appear on the surface.

Scripture is a little ambiguous as to when exactly life begins. The Pslamist says that God knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and most evangelicals take that to be that life begins at conception. It is with this definition that I wish to proceed.

The big names in the Evangelical community have made abortion a rallying cry. They deplore the idea that 1.5 million babies are aborted each year in America. And now that they believe they have some political clout (which they don’t…see below), they are trying to make sure that abortion becomes illegal in America again. Senator Spector made some comments about reversing Roe v. Wade and he almost lost his job on the Senate judiciary committee, but didn’t. Again where is that clout?

Yet, for all the talk about life beginning at conception, none of these big speakers comes out against In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The IVF process harvests up to ten eggs from the mother and sperm from the father and fertilizes the eggs in a Petri dish. The harvesting process is both painful and invasive. Doctors try to only do it once, therefore the high number of eggs taken. The fertilized eggs are either implanted into the mother’s womb or frozen. Because of the cost of this procedure (and lack of socialized health care to lower the cost) some families can only afford one trial, which means implanting lots of eggs and hoping that one “takes” and develops into a baby. Sometimes none take and other times all will take and these septuplet births will make the news.

If a family can afford several rounds of the IVF procedure, only 1 or 2 eggs will be implanted on the first round and the rest of the fertilized eggs will be frozen in case the first 1 or 2 don’t take. If the eggs do take and a child is born, then the family must make the decision on what to do with the eggs on ice. Many families have decided that one or two children are enough and the remainder can just be frozen indefinitely. There are medical problems with this, as the proteins in the fertilized eggs begin to break down; slowly, but the process is still at work. Eventually the fertilized eggs become too unstable to ever be implanted and must be destroyed.

Now if life begins at conception, then families that do not bring all of their fertilized eggs to birth are effectively aborting the unwanted fetuses. This sounds to me like a clear-cut case of abortion (although not in the normal procedure). Where is the outcry? Why not the moral outrage at IVF treatments?

Might I suggest that that it is because the majority of people using IVF aren’t easy to vilify? We have two friends who are the most loving and caring couple, but have had trouble conceiving. It seems completely unfair that God has denied this incredible Christian couple children due to infertility. They haven’t been fornicating like the poster-child for the anti-abortion movement. They love Jesus and serve Him. I certainly believe that they are going to great parents, but they will have one of their own with the help of medical science. They are probably a typical family that seeks IVF treatment (sure there are single moms and lesbians, etc), but I bet that most people seeking IVF treatment are a nice, middle-class, probably white family. That is also an apt description of most of the 7 million listeners to James Dobson. If Dobson began to speak out about the evils of IVF like he does abortion, would he alienate the people he needs to finance his ministry? Is the crusade against abortion as much about motivating listeners/supporters of evangelical ministers as about the moral outrage?

I’m not saying that these men aren’t Christians or aren’t for preaching the Gospel. I’m just trying to point out that like the outrage against gay marriage avoided adultery because it was too close to the congregation’s heart, the abortion argument avoids taking the entirely logical position against IVF because it hits too close to the congregation’s heart again.

Yeah, I don’t know why critics of the church call us hypocrites either?

[Afterthought] I search Focus on the Family website and while plenty on abortion, I only found this one instance of IVF, which doesn’t say much, but does seem to show support for IVF treatments for infertility.