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Leftover IVF embryos – how concerned should we be?3 min read

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In A Rather Unexpected Aspect of IVF, Al Mohler discusses a London Times report claiming that over 1 Million zygotes (embryos?) leftover from IVF are destroyed in Great Britain each year.  One of the most interesting points is the apparent lack of significant concern by evangelicals on this matter, who, while voicing opposition to stem cell research, don’t cry so loudly about these destroyed embryos.  But why?

1. Why evangelicals seem less concerned about destroyed IVF embryos

Maybe these IVF embryos are "less of a person" than later term babies, and so evangelicals prefer to emphasize the more obvious and more important personhood of later term infants. 

But from a darker side, maybe
Christians want the benefits of IVF for themselves, and turn a blind
eye to the consequences. 

But my contention is this: that they are trapped between
the extreme either/or thinking of the pro-life movement, which has
convinced them that personhood starts at conception, and the common sense perspective that a couple cells is not sentient, and really not much different than some skin
cells until some sort of central nervous system starts to develop. 

2. Is there room for compromise?

On some moral issues, there may be no room to compromise, as far as legislation is concerned.  But, for instance, sometimes we do compromise in order to protect the weak, while also protecting the rights of others.  For example, we label video games, or don’t sell booze to minors.

In this case, pro-choicers want to protect women’s right of choice to the fault of failing to protect the weak fetus. 

But "personhood at conception" advocates (pro-life) are at the opposite, unyielding extreme, not allowing for any personal conscience on the part of the parents, but rather, claiming certainty where there is none, they disallow anyone from choosing during the period when the personhood of the infant is questionable – and before any significant cell differentiation has occurred (like before a brainwave or heartbeat), the personhood of the fetus most certainly is debatable, and NOT certain.

3. By what definition personhood?

Though a zygote has perhaps more potential to become
a person than a skin cell, it has the same unique chromosomesWe should be defining legal personhood at a much more sure and reasonable standard, that of heartbeat and brainwaves,
which come in at about 4-6 weeks of gestation.
Before that, I say
leave it up to the individual’s conscience.

That is not only a reasonable compromise, it admits that we can’t nail every questionable moral situation down just for legislation.  This is why I created, but have yet to really promote, the organization Citizens for Reasonable Abortion Limits (  Should I push this organization and make it real?  Would it have legs, or would it merely be a pariah to both poles, with tepid support in the middle?