Church teaching

There are different opinions among Christians about the use of fertility treatment.

Some are not in favour as they see this as interfering with God’s plan. If God is seen as the sole creator of human life, this can lead to problems accepting a child who is created artificially in a laboratory. Other Christians disagree, seeing fertility treatment as a means of preventing suffering and distress for couples who cannot conceive naturally.

The Roman Catholic Church - Roman Catholic teaching supports the view that a marriage relationship should be open to children, but in a way that is in line with God’s intention for the creation of new life. Human beings should not be created in a laboratory. Processes which lead to the destruction of embryos are immoral, as human life begins at conception. In addition, the possible introduction of a third person into the marriage relationship is seen as adultery and is therefore wrong.

The Church of England - The Church of England is not against the use of IVFtechniques. However, the Church has expressed concern about whether treatment should be offered to same-sex couples and single women. In July 2003 the General Synod affirmed the sanctity of the human embryo and the need to treat it with profound respect. The Synod recognised there are different views among Christians on the morality of embryo research. (Report of Proceedings, 2003, General Synod July Group of Sessions, Church of England, page 234)

The Methodist Church - The Methodist Church believes it is right for scientists to try to learn more about the causes and cures of infertility. It accepts the use of ‘spare’ embryos in medical research, but only up to 14 days after fertilisation.

Christian arguments for and against fertility treatments

Artificial insemination by husband (AIH) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF):

  • For: AIH is one form of fertility treatment that many Christians find they can support, particularly for married couples.
  • Against: Fertility treatment is unnatural. Children should be born as part of the intimate relationship between a man and a woman. They may say it is God's will if a couple does not have children.

IVF and spare embryos:

  • For: It is common for more than one embryo to be produced by IVF, and for some to be left over. Embryos can be frozen for use at a later date by the couple. A couple may give their consent for the spare embryos to be used for research or be destroyed within 14 days (according to UK law). The Church of England and the Methodist Church support this view.
  • Against: Some Christians believe that the unwanted embryos should not be destroyed as they are potential human beings and/or because they believe that life begins at conception. The Roman Catholic and many evangelical churches take this view. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that embryos have the right to be respected as a person from the moment of conception (Roman Catholic Catechism 2378).

Artificial insemination by donor (AID) and surrogacy (requiring donor):

  • For: The use of a donor egg or sperm is considered acceptable by some Christians, whether the donor is anonymous or known to the couple, eg a sibling. Donation is a compassionate act to help a fellow human being. They may also agree that a surrogate mother might be used to carry the child, as long as this is not done for money.
  • Against: Some Christians do not agree with the donation of sperm or an egg. They say this is introducing a third person into the relationship and is like committing adultery, which is forbidden by the Ten Commandments. They would be against surrogacy for the same reasons.