William Shakespeare's famous soliloquy "To Be or Not to Be" asks an age old question that can be applied to all aspects of life. As Mother's Day approaches, many women consider the idea of becoming a mother; but being a mother is not as easy as 123-meals.
Girls are wired with a maternal instinct to nurture and added to that they are socialised at an early age to be care-takers through role-play. Even though God encouraged mankind to be fruitful and multiply, not every woman becomes a mother. Some women choose not to have children while others, though desirous of raising a family, are hindered by infertility.
Infertility is defined as "the inability to conceive after at least one year of adequate exposure when no contraceptive measures were used. It is also the inability to deliver a live infant after three consecutive conceptions" (Bobak & Jensen, 1991). The inability to have children has been a problem which has plagued our world for thousands of years; it can be considered an effect of The Fall since, as mentioned before, it was the Lord's will for mankind to reproduce.
The world has advanced in the area science and medicine that so that through Artificial Reproduction, women are able to hold babies in their arms that are their "flesh and blood." This alternative method was discovered by Dr. Robert Edwards (a biologist) in the 1950s. He learned that the specimen of rabbits and mice were successfully fertilised in a lab and he considered that this procedure could solve the human problem of infertility.
Dr. Edwards encountered setbacks when he sought permission to conduct AR trials. His research was mainly criticised by Christian and feminist groups who argued that AR "change[d] familiar contexts and traditional notions of motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth" (Jose Van Dyck, 1995). It is important to note that AR also revolutionised how animals also procreated; thus, the concern for Christians was that mankind was interfering with God's design; in so doing they were playing God.
With the advent of Artificial Reproduction the new question is 'Should Christians utilise AR technology? As one seeks to answer these questions consideration should be given to God's Word and the Effects on All Parties Involved.
The Bible and Artificial Reproduction
The Bible does not have an explicit position on Artificial Reproduction; and this one can expect because it is a modern technology. The Bible however gives examples of how women became mothers unnaturally.
Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Hannah are four biblical women who had trouble conceiving. Since there was no technology like In-vitro Fertilization / Insemination, they respectively accepted their barrenness, adopted the children of their husband's concubines; or petitioned the Lord ceaselessly. It is important to note these women did conceive naturally, having engaged in sexual intercourses with their husbands; but they required the divine intervention of God. Unless the Lord opened their wombs, they would have remained childless.
The New Testament highlights a special case of reproduction whereby Mary the espoused wife of Joseph became pregnant via supernatural conception. What makes' Mary's experience extraordinary is that there was no instance of sexual intercourse, but rather the presence of God overshadowed her.
Unnatural reproduction in the Bible is significant because in each of these occurrences it is the Creator, the same God who created everything out of nothing who orchestrated the conception of these women's children. There was no human interference or manipulation, just God orchestrating things in accordance to his great plan of salvation. Each of these women became the mothers of our forefathers in the faith - Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Samuel, namely. Mary especially was the mother of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. These women stories also teach that as we wait on God, he brings peace and healing to our circumstances.
Consider All Parties Involved
While the Bible does not give a simple yes or no answer to the question 'Should Christians utilise AR' it does challenge Christian couples to collaborate in their decision. The Apostle Paul highlights that "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 4, NIV). In some cases AR requires sperm or egg donations, and even surrogacy. In so doing a third person is introduced into the relationship biologically as bodily specimens are conjoined and legally as in some countries, surrogates are granted parental rights to offspring conceived with their specimens.
The needs of In-Vitro children should considered as the debates surrounds whether they should live or not. All children struggle with identity âfinding their place in the home and the wider world; and this would be even more challenging if they are rejected by their adoptive or biological parents; or if their parents separate and fight for custody.
Aside from this, there is the concern: where does life begin? If life begins at fertilisation: does the abandonment of fertilised eggs constitute abortion? In addition: who determines the fate of these eggs when couples separate; should a parent bring a child to term in the absence of another? Moreover: can freezing eggs interfere with the physiological development of the child in the long run?
Be at Peace
There are still a lot more questions concerning the ethics of Artificial Reproduction, questions that will challenge couples own morality. But above all couples must be at peace with God in their decision.
If you are considering Artificial Reproduction as the solution to your infertility, like the women of old petition God and wait on his response. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to our own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths" (Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-6, NIV).
Janine Williams is a fulltime theology student, passionate about the word of God which is powerful to transform the lives of individuals and nations.
Janine Williams' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/janine-williams.html