A pro-life Christian couple was left distraught after an in vitro fertilization clinic they used to get pregnant fertilized 29 of their embryos and killed seven of them.
Christian author and speaker Alan Shlemon shared the details of the unnamed couple's plight in a piece on The Stand to Reason website on Tuesday, serving as a cautionary tale about IVF and how it fits into God's plans.
Shlemon said that he recently spoke with the couple, who told him they opted for an IVF clinic due to a medical condition that made it impossible for them to get pregnant.
After undergoing the fertilization procedure and awaiting the results, the couple were surprised to be told that the clinic successfully fertilized as many as 29 human embryos. According to the belief that life begins at conception, that meant that the couple had 29 offspring.
Since only 22 of the embryos were given a high health rating, however, the IVF clinic had already killed seven of them, while the remaining were being kept in a freezer.
“Before the couple knew anything about what had happened, the IVF clinic staff had ‘created’ 29 of their children, killed seven of them, and frozen the remaining 22,” Shlemon wrote.
“This pro-life Christian couple was distraught. Though they wanted to get pregnant, they would have never consented to such disregard for human life — to creating and mistreating their own flesh and blood. But having not investigated the details or asked clarifying questions, they now realized the disturbing truth of what they had participated in.”
The article explains that the couple opted to use two of the embryos to transfer into the wife, who gave birth to two children. They have to pay $600 a year to keep the remaining 20 embryos in the freezer, however, due to their belief that they are human beings and deserve protection.
The IVF clinic's strategy is to offer a 'compassionate transfer' in cases where the couple have pro-life views, meaning that instead of discarding the remaining embryos, they will transfer them into the wife's womb.
The process will be done at an inopportune time in the woman's cycle, however, where it is unlikely that they will survive — but if an embryo does live long enough and develops as a fetus, then the couple can be assured that God wanted the baby to live, according to the clinic’s explanation.
Shlemon admitted that he felt "depressed" after hearing the story, and listed several valuable lessons for other Christian couples considering IVF.
"Don’t create more embryos than the number of children you’re willing to have, and don’t implant more embryos in your womb than you’re willing to carry at one time," he suggested, echoing the advice that the couple he spoke with reflected upon.
He said that IVF can be compared to a "black box," as it can help couples with infertility, but also presents a number of ethical dilemmas that need considering.
"Given the brave new world we live in, we can’t presume that medical technologies are consistent with Christian ethics,” Shlemon wrote.
“We must do our due diligence and investigate medical treatments, services, and medicines to ensure we’re not endangering precious lives that we’re called to protect.”
The biblical ethics of IVF has been debated by Christians of various backgrounds and views.
Shane Pruitt, director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, wrote in an op-ed in The Christian Post in 2016 that a lot of pro-life Christian couples might not understand that they're killing their leftover embryos without realizing it.
“There are thousands of embryos, created in the image and likeness of God, being frozen and stored in clinics every year only to be forgotten about or destroyed. These embryos are humans. This topic is a matter of life,” Pruitt warned at the time.
"Sadly, however, a lot of Christian couples are undermining their own sanctity of life stances because they're not taking the time to consider all the consequences, and/or they're so distracted with the allure of having children that they're willing to neglect their convictions as believers.”