Southern Baptists Vote to Oppose Use of I.V.F.

Southern Baptists voted on Wednesday to oppose the use of in vitro fertilization. The vote was an indication that ordinary evangelicals are increasingly open to arguments that equate embryos with human life, and that two years after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, “fetal personhood” may be the next front for the anti-abortion movement.

More than 10,000 delegates, called “messengers,” have gathered in Indianapolis for the denomination’s annual meeting, which is closely watched as a barometer of evangelical sentiment on a variety of cultural and political issues. The vote on Wednesday was the first time that attendees at the Southern Baptist meeting have addressed the ethics of in vitro fertilization directly. In 2021, the group passed a resolution declaring “unequivocally that abortion is murder.”

The resolution proposed on Wednesday called on Southern Baptists “to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation, especially in the number of embryos generated in the I.V.F. process.”

A vast majority of the delegates oppose abortion, but fertility treatments are widely used by evangelicals. Although the process of in vitro fertilization often results in the destruction of unused embryos, many Southern Baptists see that as fundamentally different from abortion because the goal of fertility treatment is to create new life.

With almost 13 million church members across the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention has long been a bellwether for American evangelicalism. Its reliably conservative membership makes the denomination a powerful political force, and its debates this year have attracted widespread interest from outside commentators and politicians.

Last month, the head of the denomination’s public policy arm sent a letter to the U.S. Senate asking legislators to clamp down on in vitro fertilization, stating that the practice harms children and women, who may be unaware of “complications and moral concerns.”

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