By Les Riley — The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the US Supreme Court are in full swing. Already, she is being attacked as a threat to so-called abortion rights and “a danger to women who desperately want children”—a reference to her purported views on IVF. But is she a threat to infertile couples? And is the personhood movement an even bigger one?
After weeks of attacks by Democrat politicians, pro-abortion/anti-family groups, and their propagandists in the media, the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the US Supreme Court are in full swing. As expected, Judge Barrett has handled the sensationalistic, combative questions from pro-abortion members of the judiciary committee with wisdom, grace, and wit.
One line of attack as reported by LifeSiteNews, began when Democrat Senators Patrick Leheay (VT) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) baited her with questions about her views on in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Is Judge Barrett “a danger to families who desperately want children” as Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) claimed on Fox News? Does she “believe that [Sen. Duckworth’s] daughters shouldn’t exist,” as she wrote in a letter to her colleagues in the Senate?
This charge is based on an open letter Judge Barrett signed in 2006, agreeing to the defense of life “from fertilization to natural death.” Sen. Duckworth, Sen. Leahy, and many others suggest that this disqualifies Judge Barrett from the U.S. Supreme Court.
We’ve been here many times before
Abortion advocates have often used the emotional appeal of infertility and IVF to deflect from the destruction of innocent human life through abortion. In fact, this tactic was one of the key deciding factors in 2011, when Mississippi, considered one of the most pro-life states in the nation, voted down a Personhood Amendment that would have recognized life at fertilization and ended legal abortion in the state.
Planned Parenthood poured over a million dollars into a misinformation campaign to oppose the Personhood Amendment, and then-governor Haley Barbour made some statements that the abortion lobby used to confuse people in the last week before the vote. One of the most effective opponents was a group called Parents Against Personhood.
The public faces of Parents Against Personhood’s opposition campaign were mothers who had conceived children through IVF, with their beautiful children by their side, claiming that if the Personhood Amendment had passed when their children weren’t yet conceived, “They wouldn’t be here today.” This was very powerful pro-family, pro-child messaging and imagery. But behind the scenes, providing the funding, was the IVF industry—a Goliath that has a much broader, more profitable, more insidious line of business to protect than even abortion.
Fast forward to today, and the same claims are being made: putting Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court would be a threat to IVF. But would it really? And does the personhood movement intend to “ban IVF”? Before I answer those questions, it’s important to explain what IVF actually is, as nuanced and twisted language is a favorite deception of the Left.
Some IVF basics
The dictionary definition of “in vitro” is:
In vitro (meaning: in the glass): studies are performed with microorganisms, cells, or biological molecules outside their normal biological context…In contrast, in vivo studies are those conducted in living organisms.
So, in vitro fertilization uses modern medical and scientific technology to fertilize a mother’s egg with a father’s sperm outside the act of sexual intercourse. Fertility clinics do this multiple times, often creating as many as 30 humans in the embryonic stage for each fertility treatment. Most of those humans do not survive their development in Petri dishes—some die from complications of the process and others are intentionally destroyed to ensure only the “genetically fittest” are implanted into the mother’s womb. Even after implantation, some will die naturally and others may undergo “selective reduction” through an abortion procedure. The extra embryos that are deemed genetically superior, but that don’t get implanted, can be offered up for adoption, kept in suspended animation, discarded, or sold to researchers for human experimentation and commercial use.
The process of IVF is highly destructive to human life.
To some degree, IVF is shorthand for a whole range of assisted reproductive technologies. A few years back, the PBS program Nova detailed 32 ways to manufacture human life, including one that could be described as self-cloning—using CRISPR technology to grow a new human being from your own harvested stem cells.
With the rapid advance of technology moving towards genetically modified humans, the warning of Jeff Golblum’s character in Jurassic Park becomes more sobering. To paraphrase, the problem with modern scientists is that they ask if we can do something without considering if we should.
It is the place of theologians and ethicists to wrestle with the morality and unforeseen consequences. It is the duty of families to soberly consider these implications, and it is the role of the State to provide guardrails to ensure the protection of inalienable human rights.
So what of the morality of IVF?
Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse of the Ruth Institute provides a well-reasoned defense of the Catholic critique of the IVF industry. In the National Catholic Register, Dr. Roback-Morse clearly lays out Catholic teaching on this matter, but also makes it clear that a “child conceived through artificial means is fully human, fully deserving of respect, love, and legal protection.”
A well-respected Protestant pastor in Virginia shared what he uses in counseling couples struggling with fertility:
“In standard IVF practice, woman’s eggs are harvested and immediately fertilized. Upon successful fertilization, the embryonic children are observed for 3 to 5 days before the best of them are selected for either immediate transfer or transfer at a future date. Those children who do not meet the clinic’s standard for acceptable embryos are discarded, and if the IVF procedure is successful, the children who were frozen in the embryonic stage are often discarded as well. It is this practice of discarding (and thereby killing) undesirable and unwanted children that is problematic ethically, morally, and biblically.”
He proposes an alternative IVF technique that harvests many eggs, but creates only one human embryo for implantation. This, he says, can be “conducted in a manner compliant with the personhood of prenatal children.” It is important to note that this may be a point of distinction from some Catholic and Protestant teachings that are opposed to all artificial assisted reproductive technologies. He concludes:
“Recognition of the personhood of prenatal children does not have to be a hindrance to IVF. This recognition may require certain changes to be implemented to safeguard the IVF process, but this is no different than the safeguards that are required for any industry which has the potential to endanger human lives.”
So what of the claim that those who espouse “life begins at conception” are out to destroy the desires of those who are struggling with fertility?
Does the personhood movement have some nefarious, heartless agenda to prevent infertile couples from having children? And how exactly does the Personhood Alliance propose that recognizing legal personhood could and should impact IVF?
To answer these questions, we must consider the two fruits of IVF—the two outcomes of the completed IVF procedure as it is largely practiced in the US.
Two fruits of IVF: Number one, the beautiful
The first fruit is that families, and the world, are blessed with children. It is likely that each of us regularly comes into contact with children, and even adults, who were conceived via assisted reproductive technology. You cannot tell these humans apart from any other human because they are no different in appearance, essence, or value. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, have wept and prayed over their desire for children and have been given a gift; their hearts desire. And the world is richer for it.
Abortion supporters and the media manipulate and exploit these families and those who love them by claiming the pro-life movement, and particularly the personhood movement, doesn’t value these children or their families and only pretends to be their defenders.
What utter nonsense.
What wicked deception.
The personhood movement asserts that a child conceived through artificial means is fully human and fully deserving of respect, love, and legal protection.
Personally, I am very grateful for the young lady who volunteered at an inner-city medical clinic I ran, which offered free full-service maternity care to poor and high-risk moms. She was one of four quadruplets conceived through IVF who served the moms and children we helped with great compassion. Let us not forget about the Christians who open their homes, hearts, and wombs to adopt frozen embryonic humans who might otherwise be discarded or destroyed in human experimentation.
The reality is that it is the advocates of legal abortion who demonstrate their disregard for mothers, children, and families. Not personhood advocates.
For example, the culture of death demonstrates its zeal for eugenics by asserting that Judge Barrett’s seven children would have been better off dismembered by abortion, by exposing their racism in calling Judge Barrett a colonialist for adopting children born in Haiti; and by advocating abortion for children diagnosed with Down Syndrome, like Judge Barrett’s youngest son.
There was a common saying among persecuted Christians who lived in Eastern European countries during the reign of Communism:
“A false accusation is often simply a veiled confession.”
Advocates of abortion try to claim that people like Judge Barrett and advocates of personhood are somehow enemies of families and children. They feign compassion, while simultaneously attacking a working mother and her children, color-blind families, and those with disabled children. They are simply revealing their own hearts.
“But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:36)
Two fruits of IVF: Number two, the bitter
All of these accusations are hurled against the pro-life movement, and personhood advocates in particular, because of the second fruit of IVF—the bitter—the other outcome, the leftover humans, the unsuitable, and those slated to be discarded, killed, or experimented upon.
Simply put, abortion advocates and the IVF industry abhor the personhood movement because we seek equal protection for all human beings, created in the image of God, because they are valued and loved regardless of their size, age, location, or circumstances of conception.
We labor to see the hundreds of thousands of tiny, frozen pre-born human beings held in perpetual storage in IVF clinics adopted by other loving couples, many of whom are struggling with infertility. We seek to prevent these tiny humans from being killed, sold, experimented on, and used to make vaccines, cosmetics, and testing enhancements for food and drink (yes, all this is happening now). Medical and commercial cannibalism of even the tiniest humans is morally repugnant and should not be acceptable in civilized, 21st century society.
We labor to stop dangerous and immoral practices that use the “leftover” embryonic humans created during the IVF process, like human cloning, three-parent embryos, and the creation of genetically modified human beings and human-animal hybrids. These practices are macabre and ethically abhorrent and have countless unforeseen consequences.
Is this the imposition of Judge Barrett’s or the Personhood Alliance’s religious dogma or is it truly a fight for human rights? The answer lies in understanding different areas of authority and responsibility.
Religious dogma or human rights?
Let’s look at a common claim by abortion advocates:
“The decision as to whether or not to have children is between a woman and her doctor; a woman and her god; a woman and her life’s desires… It is not the government’s place to decide.”
This all sounds very high-minded. Very libertarian; like a limited-government conservative defending the sanctity of faith, family, and individual freedom against overreach by the State.
But it is deception.
The fact is, every abortion and every facet of IVF, as it is currently practiced in the US, involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being with unique interests and inalienable rights of his or her own. The Declaration of Independence, written as an assertion of the rights of individuals and an affront to tyrannical government, tells us that civil government is instituted for the purpose of protecting God-given, inalienable rights. The first among these is the right to life.
Our Constitution was created, according to the framers, to “bind down government” and ensure liberty. It set forth the premise extended in the Bill of Rights that Congress cannot establish an ecclesiocracy (or a national church) and guaranteed that “no person shall be deprived of right to life . . . without due process of law.”
The Bible informs us that God directly instituted the State to exercise the sword against injustice and indirectly, to defend the weak, voiceless, and fatherless against the strong and powerful who seek to destroy them.
Today, that destruction is very widespread. Technology is evolving rapidly, and emerging on the horizon are ways to make, take, and alter life that previously existed only in science fiction films. When any practice results in the deliberate destruction of a human life, then the role of the State is, indeed, to require the defense and protection of the innocent.
To learn more about what the Personhood Alliance is doing to end abortion and other direct assaults on human life and human dignity, subscribe to our email list.
Les Riley is interim president of the Personhood Alliance and president of Personhood Mississippi. Les has been involved in pro-life, pro-family, and Gospel-based mercy ministries in Mississippi, inner city Memphis, and Uganda, Africa for many years.