A recently announced candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention who has in the past said he would support treatment to change the sexual orientation of pre-born infants from gay to straight and called it sinful for married couples to remain childless by choice has once again injected his opinions into the womb.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says infertile couples who try to conceive through in-vitro fertilization or “test-tube babies” are on morally shaky ground.
Mohler called it a “glaring inconsistency” for evangelicals to condemn the destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research while “ignoring or dismissing” destruction of embryos in IVF clinics.
Mohler commented in a Jan. 10 blog about a Dec. 30 Times of London report than more than 1 million embryos created for fertility treatment in British clinics have been destroyed over the last 14 years.
Extra embryos are created to help couples conceive by IVF by maximizing the chance that at least one is viable to be implanted into a prospective mother. According to the Times report, more than half of 2.1 million embryos created in the UK using IVF between 1991 and 2005 were never used.
Mohler said the situation in the United States is virtually the same. “Human embryos are being produced, almost factory-like, and then routinely destroyed or indefinitely frozen,” he wrote.
“Far too many evangelicals seem to turn a blind eye to this reality,” Mohler said. “While we celebrate the birth of a child and the gift of life, we cannot blind ourselves to the harsh and grotesque reality that this technology also means the destruction of human life.”
Mohler challenged a quote in the Times story that described unused embryos as an “unexpected aspect” of IVF.
“If you know ahead of time that the prevailing policy, the standard practice, in in-vitro fertilization is to create far more embryos than are ever going to be transferred to a woman’s womb, you can’t claim that the existence of those so-called surplus embryos is unexpected,” Mohler said last Thursday on “The Albert Mohler Radio Program.”
“I think the better word there might be unacknowledged.”
Unlike Great Britain, the United States does not have a protocol that requires destruction of leftover embryos, Mohler said, leaving more than 1 million U.S. embryos in cold storage, a status Mohler called “an assault upon human dignity.”
Mohler said it isn’t enough to reduce the number of surplus embryos.
“It’s the moral status of the embryo that’s important here,” he said, “and if the moral status of the embryo is important, then the destruction of one or one million, both of those would be problematic.”
“Both of those would be understood as the wanton destruction of human life,” Mohler said. “Both of those would be understood as being morally and medically indefensible.”
Mohler said “there are an awful lot of evangelical Christians who make use of the IVF technology and celebrate the IVF technology without recognizing so much that generally goes with it.”
“I just want us to remember that there are no medical technologies like this that do not come with moral risk,” he said. “There are no medical technologies like this that do not come with hard decisions.”
Of all people, Mohler said, evangelicals “better be the ones who are open-eyed and clear-headed about this, so we’re not in a position in which we claim at least somewhat disingenuously, if perhaps out of naivette, that this was an unexpected aspect of IVF. It’s not unexpected. If the standard procedure calls for it, it’s not unexpected.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, announced recently he plans to nominate Mohler as president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the denomination’s annual meeting next June.
Often quoted by media as an SBC spokesman, Mohler has a long resume of controversial views.
He has proclaimed it a sin for adults to purposely delay marriage and declared married couples who remain childless by choice in “moral rebellion.” He supports a “full-quiver” theology, eschewing artificial contraception and leaving decisions about family planning up to God.
He has advocated an “exit strategy” for Christians from public schools and termed theistic evolution, the middle ground between Darwinism and direct creation embraced by many Christians, a “lie.”
In 2000 Mohler called the Catholic Church “a false church” that “teaches a false gospel.”
Last year he wrote a column titled: “Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?” In it, he argued that if a biological basis for homosexuality is found and a successful treatment to reverse sexual orientation developed he “would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.”
Mohler later said he didn’t say babies are born gay, as he was quoted, a position rejected by Christian fundamentalists who believe sexual orientation is a choice.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.