Evangelicals oppose IVF & hate LGBTQ+ people because of this one strange belief

Evangelicals oppose IVF & hate LGBTQ+ people because of this one strange belief
In this undated photo provided by OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, scientists use a pipette to remove the nucleus from an egg. Britain's fertility regulator has approved controversial techniques allowing doctors to create babies using DNA from three people — what it called a "historic" decision to help prevent a small number of children from inheriting potentially fatal diseases from their mothers. Photo: (OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy via AP)

The decision by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to oppose in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may seem like folly. After all, many evangelicals have turned to IVF to have children when they are otherwise unable to conceive. Emboldened by their success with overturning Roe v. Wade, the activists are looking to push the envelope even further, with the goal of establishing embryos as people with full protection under the law.

Much of the focus on opposition to IVF has been on the process itself. As many as 20 eggs are extracted from the woman, in hopes that about 12 will prove good candidates for eventual implantation. The eggs are then fertilized and frozen. One is selected to be fertilized, and the rest remain frozen. If the implantation works, the frozen embryos, which consist of just 100 to 200 cells, may be destroyed or saved for future use.

The destruction of the embryos is tantamount to abortion in the eyes of hard-core activists. But many of those activists have another objection that has much broader implications for society, especially for LGBTQ+ rights.

For some opponents of IVF, the issue isn’t just the destruction of embryos — it’s the fact that it separates procreation from sex in a marriage. This is a disturbance of the natural order, and part of the wider erosion of the pre-sexual revolution ethic that they want to reinstate. Anything that severs sex from procreation, and specifically sex outside of marriage, is inherently wrong.

In that sense, IVF is just as wrong as gay sex and marriage equality. In fact, Andrew Walker — associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who submitted the SBC resolution with Albert Mohler Jr., the seminary’s president — has made that link explicit.

In a piece that Walker co-authored five years ago, Walker wrote about the “unethical circumstances that happen when sex and conception are divided.” That includes sex for pleasure, whether gay or straight, and even contraception.

“Where contraception offers sex without conception, IVF offers conception without sex,” Walker and co-author Matthew Lee Anderson of Baylor University wrote. “But while many evangelicals would affirm the legitimacy of contraception, the ethic that stands beneath the division between procreation and sex permits many practices they would rightfully protest. Gay marriage, fornication, contraception, and IVF all sever the natural and creational link between sexual acts and the generation of human life.”

Walker and Anderson complain that the further people get away from having sex solely to have children, the worse it gets.

“The erosion of this link helps explain why the Christian sexual ethic retains less purchase culturally with each passing generation,” they write. “If sexual pleasure and conception are not held together within marriage, they will not be held together outside of it.”

This is the crux of the religious right’s complaint about LGBTQ+ relationships and why their attacks on LGBTQ+ rights are inextricably linked to women’s rights, and reproductive rights: Nothing outside of baby-making in a marriage is legitimate sexual activity.

If you think that attacking IVF is outlandish, conservative evangelicals are hardly stopping there. They would like to make divorce a lot harder as well. Increasingly, the Right wants to end no-fault divorce. Focus on the Family President Jim Daly has called for the end of such laws, even for spouses married to pedophiles or serial adulterers.

Thus, the opposition to IVF that the SBC approved last week is part of a much broader vision for America. It’s one that harkens back to the 1950s Eisenhower era, where heterosexual marriages were the pinnacle of self-expression, sex was barely spoken of, and gender roles were rigidly defined. In that world, there is no room for LGBTQ+ people — and that’s exactly the way the religious right would like it.

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