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Proclamation Index

Reproductive BioEthical Jigsaws, Part 1

by William E. Cripe, Sr. Bill Cripe is senior pastor at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Waterville, Maine. He maintains ASCP certification as a registered medical technologist and has been AIIA's Resource Associate for Social and Ethical Issues since April, 2000. EDITOR'S NOTE: From July 14-16, 2005, Mr. Cripe attended an international conference on Genetic and Reproductive Ethics near Chicago IL. The conference was sponsored by CBHD, i.e. Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. Pastor Cripe then agreed to author this two-issue Proclamation response to ten tough reproductive bioethical questions, confident that his information and perspective were up-to-date, accurate, and guided by the counsel of the experts at CBHD. He described the CBHD team as "scientific geniuses who are doing the research so widely touted in the media, and all God-fearing believers in the Savior of the Bible." Mr. Cripe went on to say that: ' the person, at CBHD the primary caveat in any ethical consideration is that the result of conception, i.e. the union of an egg and sperm, is an embryonic human, a life. Because an embryo is a fully human life, CBHD's guiding principle in bioethics concerning research on embryos is: 'Unless the benefit to the embryo is greater than the risk [any process which intentionally compromises that life], the research or the procedure is ethically unacceptable.'" Is artificial insemination from a donor spouse wrong? Whether artificial insemination (A.I.) as a procedure in general is itself acceptable or not may be a matter of conscience. When I personally consider God's hand in closing or opening a womb, e.g. Hannah (1 Samuel), and that children are a gift from God rather than a right, my growing though still uncertain opinion is that any form of A.I. may be unacceptable. However, acknowledging that my opinion is probably in the minority, we'll proceed here on the assumption that at least some forms of A.I. are ethically proper. A.I. from a donor spouse is merely the insertion of a husband's sperm into his wife's vagina through some other means than the hallowed sexual union. In the grand scheme of God's wondrous plan for humanity, His intention for the family remains intact in this case. This is merely a medically-assisted process with the God-ordained parties providing the necessary ingredients (egg and sperm) for life. So if your conscience permits artificial insemination at all, this procedure probably need pose no serious moral dilemma. Is artificial insemination from an anonymous donor wrong? Outside of the potential for significant emotional complications of the non-donor spouse having a child that is not his/hers, or the egg/sperm donor being deprived of his/her kin, the opinion of CBHD is that any A.I. which utilizes a donor source is introducing a third party into the unique relationship designed by God whereby a man and woman, through the bond of love, become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This is therefore a morally unacceptable procedure. Is in-vitro fertilization morally wrong? This process places numerous eggs and sperm together in a laboratory setting. The normal process yields numerous fertilized eggs (embryonic humans), almost always with a view toward storing or destroying unneeded embryos. This procedure only compounds the ethical problems associated with A.I. and certainly broaches the moral line of doing harm to human life, albeit in embryonic form. What about freezing and storing sperm and eggs? Remember that life does not begin until an egg and sperm are united to form a fertilized egg (embryo).  Therefore, the moral issues of harming life would not be at issue in the handling of such pre-united entities. Is fertility assistance wrong? First, we should understand that fertility assistance is very broad.  For example, the infection of a man's prostate may produce a transient impotence, thereby rendering him infertile. Treatment of such an infection with antibiotics would most likely restore the man's potency. Technically that would constitute fertility assistance. But since it is the byproduct of treating an infection, ethical dilemmas would not be an issue. Therefore the answer really depends on the particular sort of fertility assistance (A.I., I.V.F. etc.) being considered. Coming April 21, 2006! AIIA's Spring Symposium 2006 is to explore this very topic in greater depth.

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