What's the issue?
The word ‘fertility’ relates to producing children. Infertility is being unable to conceive a child by natural means. Sometimes the man can’t produce sperm, or not enough sperm, or his sperm is not of a good enough quality to fertilise the egg. Sometimes the woman doesn’t produce ova (eggs), or her fallopian tubes are blocked and the ova can’t get to the uterus. Sometimes the woman doesn’t have a uterus. It may be that the atmosphere inside the woman’s uterus kills off the sperm.
In the past, like today, there were couples who were unable to have children by natural means and so they never became parents. Today, the situation is very different. Science and medicine have moved to a more hopeful position where infertile couples can often be helped to have babies.
What do Christians believe about fertility treatment?
As with all ethical questions, there are a range of Christian responses. It is worth starting with what all Christians would agree on in regards to children and family.
Christians believe that children are from God. The first command God gave humans in Genesis 1:28 was ‘Go forth and multiply’ – in other words, start producing children. He is very much pro-family. There are plenty of other places in the Bible where children are described as a gift – for example:
“Children are a blessing
and a gift from the Lord.
Having a lot of children
to take care of you
in your old age
is like a warrior
with a lot of arrows.
The more you have,
the better off you will be…” (Psalm 127:3-5)
Stories of childlessness and infertility are quite common in the Bible: for example, Hannah in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 1) and Elizabeth in the New Testament (Luke 1:5-25) among many, many others. In these stories, God hears the women’s cries to have children and helps them conceive. For many Christians, these stories show that God cares for people who struggle to have children and provides help for them to overcome infertility. They may see medical advances as a means God uses to help couples have their own children.
Christians who oppose fertility treatment are not unsympathetic to the plight of would-be parents. They may have genuine concerns about the ethics of the process. For example, is the created embryo respected as one that has the potential for full human life, or treated simply as a commodity?
Equally, there are already a lot of existing children looking for parents to adopt them. Should we really artificially create more children at great expense when so many need loving homes and families?
Christians against the use of fertility treatment may argue that God, being God, is able to overcome natural obstacles to conception and that childless couples should simply trust Him to work a miracle.