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Southern Baptists vote to oppose use of IVF technology

(NewsNation) — Southern Baptists voted Wednesday to oppose the use of in vitro fertilization.

The nonbinding proclamation calls on members of the country’s largest evangelical denomination to only support reproductive technologies that affirm the value and right to life of every human being from the moment of conception.

The vote came from 10,000 Southern Baptist Convention delegates, known as messengers, who are meeting at the denomination’s annual conference this week in Indianapolis. Wednesday’s vote came a day after messengers voted to expel a Virginia church from the denomination for subscribing to the belief women can serve as pastors within the Southern Baptist church.

Despite Tuesday’s move involving the Virginia congregation, messengers voted to reject a formal ban on women clergy, although the denomination informally does not allow women to serve in that role.

On Wednesday, messengers approved the IVF measure, which encourages Southern Baptists to only use reproductive technologies that affirm the “unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in the embryonic stage.”

As with the measure involving female church leaders, the IVF proclamation does not formally ban those within the denomination from using the reproductive technology. Those who choose to pursue IVF treatments will not face any punishment from the denomination, the measure concludes.

Rather, the amendment expresses empathy for couples experiencing infertility and says that “all children are a gift from God, no matter the circumstances of their conception.”

Wednesday’s vote comes four months after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos are children — a ruling that halted the state’s IVF clinics from operating. The Alabama court decision came after grievances were filed by multiple IVF patients whose embryos were taken out of freezing, dropped on the floor and destroyed.

The ruling declared that frozen embryos are legally considered children and are, therefore, protected under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Immediately after the high court’s decision, former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said he would “strongly support” IVF availability.

Trump has also declined to suppport a national ban on abortion, saying each state should have its own laws.

Earlier this week, Trump told anti-abortion Christian groups to stand up for “innocent life.” In recorded remarks, the former president said that everyone needs to pull together to preserve their values, including religious liberty, free speech, innocent life and America’s heritage and traditions.

Wednesday’s vote marked the first time that Southern Baptists have addressed the topic of IVF technology, The New York Times reported. However, in 2021 Southern Baptists at the annual meeting passed a resolution declaring “unequivocally that abortion is murder.”

Before the vote, the debate exhibited the divisions that exist within Southern Baptists on the issue of IVF technology. Although the vast majority of evangelicals are morally opposed to abortion, many are open to the use of IVF technology,

Those at the Indianapolis conference who opposed the resolution said that the measure could prove harmful to some Southern Baptists.

“This resolution would castigate and condemn the entirely moral and ethical actions of these two friends of mine calling their faithful sacrifice, struggle, and blessing a wicked thing,” Michigan messenger Daniel Taylor said, according to The Tennessean. “It would also unnecessarily make it more difficult for all of us to reach those who have gone through IVF as parents or children.”

In passing the measure, messengers also called on their fellow Southern Baptists to “advocate for the government to restrain” actions inconsistent with the dignity of “every human being, which necessarily includes frozen embryonic human beings,” The New York Times reported.

The report said that last month, the denomination’s public policy arm sent a letter to U.S. senators, asking lawmakers to clamp down on the use of IVF. The newspaper reported that the authors of the resolution that was passed Wednesday said that the topic of IVF technology is still debated among anti-abortion Christians.

“I want to do more than nudge Republicans who are against us on this. I want to call them out for their error and inconsistency,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Times this week.

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