More and more I hear arguments like the following:
1 – IVF is expensive so for most families it is necessary to create many embryos initially to guard against the known rate of implantation failure. Would you tell these people that they can not produce the appropriate number of embryos and risk their resources without any protection because of your religious beliefs?
2- Women want to have babies and IVF and fertility drugs give them a chance to do so when biology and age are conspiring against them. Would you deny a woman the right to have her child? Would you force her to carry and deliver multiples at great risk to herself and her unborn children rather than have a reduction performed because more embryos than expected survived based on your religious beliefs?
Here is the problem with these arguments and others like them. As per usual, these arguments only hold water if the unborn are not innocent human beings. If the unborn are fully human then we have to ask ourselves some tough questions about how we live. Let me see if I can construct a good model to understand this:
Behavior “B” often leads to Consequence “C.” Consequence “C” necessitates procedure “P.”
This seems to be what they are arguing. Sex, fertility treatments, IVF, and whatever else you want to plug in often produce unwanted consequences and those consequences necessitate certain procedures. But is this accurate? Let’s tweak it a bit. Is “P” necessary? I think that is obviously wrong to say that abortion and reductions are necessary (meaning there are alternative options that make it not "the only possible option") but even if “P” was not necessary and merely the easiest option there is still a problem. If the unborn are innocent human beings, then to terminate that life for elective reasons is objectively immoral.
“B” often leads to “C.” “C” is most easily dealt with by immoral procedure “IP.”
I am not appealing to the Bible to establish the immorality of “IP.” I have not said it is unchristian to perform reductions and abortions. I have made the claim that terminating innocent human life for elective reasons is objectively immoral. You can make a case why it is not objectively immoral to terminate the lives of innocent human beings if you wish, but I warn you that you lose the moral force to condemn every act of barbarism in the history of the world as objectively wrong. The Holocaust, Soviet Gulags, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and Rwandan Genocide are all ultimately reduced to alternative methods of population control if taking innocent lives is not immoral. You can also try to make the case that the unborn are not innocent human beings. This, of course, leads us back to the central question, “What are the unborn?” (Look here for more on that argument)
Also notice I am not saying that “B” is necessarily immoral. The act of taking fertility drugs or pursuing IVF does not have to be inherently immoral, but the conditions these actions create are the issue. If we know that “B” often leads to “C” which strongly leads to “IP,” then we need to think about “B.” If the “IP” in question is the killing of innocent life for elective reasons, then the more strongly “C” is associated with “IP” the more it becomes imperative to address not “IP” but “B.” If a morally neutral act is consistently leading to a later immoral procedure, especially something as serious as the elective destruction of innocent life, then it is not religious to conclude that the best way to avoid “IP” is by reducing “B.”
Clear as mud, right? Let me dress it up a bit. We know that doing something like a morally neutral act of taking fertility drugs produces a high risk of multiples. Further we are told that multiples are dangerous to the mother and her babies, and reductions make it possible for the mother to carry a safe number of children to term. Reductions as a practice are the intentional destruction of innocent human lives for an elective reason. Further, the possible need to perform a reduction is foreknown prior to the use of the fertility drugs which eliminates the idea that it is an unintended or unforseen consequence. Then it is not only the practice of reductions that must be questioned. We have to ask if we ought to be using fertility drugs so liberally as well. Not because I would force people to not have their own children through religious rule, but because even an understandable and emotionally valid desire can cause situations that too often lead to immoral practices. You can not balance the families desire to have children against the situational need to kill some of their children created by that heartfelt and understandable desire. It is important that we do not unnecessarily and repeatedly create situations where we feel compelled to kill life as a result of elective behaviors. The more strongly the need for reductions is argued the more it calls into question the morality of fertility treatment. If the need for reductions is overstated then stop killing innocent babies for less than necessary reasons.
Fertility drugs and IVF provide an opportunity for people to have families that would not exist without these options. With that comes the awesome responsibility to police ourselves. People are becoming a commodity. Easily bought and easily disposed of. It is not religious to ask that we look at what we are doing and consider if we can not be more careful in our zeal to create more children. It is common sense and solid moral judgement.