Friday, July 12, 2024

Southern Baptists vote to oppose use of IVF in U.S.

In 2021, the group passed a resolution declaring “unequivocally that abortion is murder.”

• June 12, 2024
Southern Baptists meeting in Indianapolis
Southern Baptists meeting in Indianapolis[ Credit: Los Angeles Times]

The United States’ largest Protestant denomination, Southern Baptists, on Wednesday, voted to oppose the use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

It indicated that ordinary evangelicals are increasingly open to arguments that equate embryos with human life and that two years after the overturning of “Roe v. Wade,” “foetal personhood” may be the next front for the anti-abortion movement.

No fewer than 10,000 delegates, called “messengers,” gathered in Indianapolis for the denomination’s annual meeting, which is closely watched as a barometer of evangelical sentiment on a variety of cultural and political issues.

Earlier before the vote, messengers heard several emotional testimonies, some from Baptists who hoped to soften the language of the resolution, titled “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo.”

One of the messengers from the church in Ohio, Zach Sahadak, shared that he has a son born via in vitro fertilisation.

Mr Sahadak added that his wife was pregnant with a second child by the same method.

“I have 10 embryos I love. I am for the sanctity of life and for the sanctity of embryos. I’m against the idea that this technology is so wicked that it cannot be employed,” he said.

However, the vote was the first time that attendees at the Southern Baptist meeting addressed the ethics of in vitro fertilisation directly.

In 2021, the group passed a resolution declaring “unequivocally that abortion is murder.”

The resolution called on Southern Baptists “to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage.

It was also to use reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation, especially in terms of the number of embryos generated in the IVF process.

The decision also exhorted them to “advocate for the government to restrain” actions inconsistent with the dignity of “every human being, which necessarily includes frozen embryonic human beings.”

A vast majority of the delegates oppose abortion, but fertility treatments are widely used by evangelicals.

At least, with almost 13 million church members across the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention has long been a “bellwether” for American evangelicalism.

The process of in vitro fertilisation often results in the destruction of unused embryos. Many Southern Baptists see that as fundamentally different from abortion because the goal of fertility treatments is to create new life.

The denomination’s reliably conservative membership makes it a powerful political force, and its debates this year have attracted widespread interest from outside commentators and politicians.

In May, the head of the denomination’s public policy arm sent a letter to the U.S. Senate asking legislators to clamp down on in vitro fertilisation, stating that the practice harms children and women, who may be unaware of “complications and moral concerns.”

The affirmation of the resolution was not a ban and would have no binding impact on families in Southern Baptist churches who are pursuing fertility treatments.

The amendment expresses empathy for couples experiencing infertility and affirms that all children are a gift from God, no matter the circumstances of their conception.

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