Southern Baptists Vote to Oppose IVF

The nation’s largest gathering of protestants voted to oppose the use of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in fertility treatments, a harbinger of the anti-abortion movement’s growing fixation on care for infertility.

On Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention — an annual gathering of thousands of “delegates” representing scores of Baptist and evangelical churches throughout the country — passed a resolution affirming “the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation, especially in the number of embryos generated in the IVF process.”

The resolution also decried the creation of surplus embryos during IVF treatment, as well as the destruction of embryos not used in treatment. The document contained a separate clause endorsing the adoption of “frozen embryos in order to rescue those who are eventually to be destroyed.”

Earlier this year, the Alabama Supreme Court declared that IVF embryos were legally people in the eyes of the state, calling them “extrauterine children.” The ruling generated immediate chaos for couples engaged in fertility treatments in Alabama, and sparked national backlash that spurred Alabama lawmakers to pass a bill protecting access to IVF a few weeks later.

Regardless, the Alabama Supreme Court decision was a win for hardline conservatives who see the end of federal abortion rights as just the beginning of their crusade against reproductive autonomy. IVF quickly became a national hot topic, and in February Republicans in the U.S. Senate struck down legislation that sought to protect access to IVF at the federal level. “They aren’t going to just stop in Alabama; mark my words, if we don’t act now, it will only get worse,” the bill’s author, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), said at the time.

While the resolution passed by the Southern Baptist Convention is not binding, it does serve as a guiding framework for millions of evangelical congregations throughout the country. The same day that the convention voted to oppose IVF, it failed to secure the required two-thirds majority needed to pass an amendment to its constitution barring collaboration with congregations that “affirm, appoint, or employ a woman as a pastor of any kind.”

The vote failed by a margin of just five percentage points.

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