". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Media Distorts Southern Baptist Convention Resolution on IVF

June 18, 2024

During the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last Wednesday, representatives of churches in America’s largest Protestant denomination adopted a resolution calling for an ethical approach to in vitro fertilization (IVF). That resolution, titled “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo,” marks “the first time the Southern Baptist Convention has spoken clearly to the IVF issue. And it did speak clearly,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler said on “Washington Watch” Monday.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media seemed determined to misunderstand. “Southern Baptists vote to oppose use of IVF,” declared The New York Times. That headline catches the overall tone of mainstream reporting, in which nearly every outlet participated: “opposition” (NBC), “condemn” (USA Today), “vote against” (Wall Street Journal), “oppose” (Washington Post), “oppose” (The Hill), “opposing” (Politico), “oppose” (TIME), “condemn” (Forbes), “condemn” (Reuters), “opposing” (Fox News).

Not that the SBC’s resolution was incomprehensible to outsiders. In fact, one common source of misinformation, PBS, actually got it right, explaining that “Southern Baptist delegates expressed alarm … over the way in vitro fertilization is routinely being practiced … lamenting that the creation of surplus frozen embryos often results in ‘destruction of embryonic human life.’” Blind squirrels occasionally do find an acorn.

One way to cut through media spin — about any topic — is to go directly to the source and find out for yourself what was said and done.

The SBC resolution reaffirmed “the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage.” It urged Southern Baptists “to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation especially in the number of embryos generated in the IVF process” and encouraged families “to consider adopting frozen embryos in order to rescue those who are eventually to be destroyed (Proverbs 24:11-12).” To characterize such statements as an indiscriminate “opposition” to IVF is like mischaracterizing a resolution against lying as opposition to a free press.

Far from exhibiting a callous disregard for families struggling with infertility, the resolution adopted a compassionate tone. “[W]e grieve alongside couples who have been diagnosed with infertility or are currently struggling to conceive,” it stated, “affirm their godly desire for children, and encourage them to consider the ethical implications of assisted reproductive technologies as they look to God for hope, grace, and wisdom amid suffering.”

Yet, the SBC felt the need to clarify their position because of the morally fraught methodology of the IVF industry. “People don’t realize that the IVF … industry … is unregulated in many ways,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

The IVF process “routinely generates more embryos than can be safely implanted, thus resulting in the continued freezing, stockpiling, and ultimate destruction of human embryos, some of whom may also be subjected to medical experimentation,” the resolution warned. The IVF industry also “increasingly engages in dehumanizing methods for determining suitability for life and genetic sorting, based on notions of genetic fitness and parental preferences,” added the resolution.

Pointing out these ethical concerns is “just a part of our moral responsibility,” explained Mohler. “Southern Baptists were too late to get into the game on abortion. … On the issue of IVF, frankly, we’re already late, but it’s very important that we speak biblically.” The resolutions passed each year at the SBC “are non-binding, but they do give the sense kind of where Southern Baptists stand on a host of issues,” explained David Closson, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview, on Monday’s “Washington Watch.”

“When you look at the backdrop of what took place in the Senate,” which just held a vote on a bill that would further deregulate IVF and permit cloning, the creation of human-animal chimeras, and the sale of human embryos, the SBC resolution was “very timely,” said Perkins. Naturally, this timeliness drew the ire of the mainstream media. “They’re happy if we’re talking about things that are not relevant, [that are] not [an] application of biblical truth to current, pressing moral and social problems,” he argued.

But, with nothing legitimate to criticize, media critiques quickly descended to misrepresentations and straw-man attacks. “This is a very extreme view for the convention to take on the whole,” declared “Morning Joe” Scarborough on MSNBC. “If there is such value for life, then I think the Southern Baptist Church [sic] should have a very, very harsh, direct statement on the death penalty, on war.”

It’s worth noting that Christians have historically thought deeply about both capital punishment and war — issues quite distinct both from each other and from IVF — and their recognition of the potential ethical pitfalls of both have influenced Western nations to adopt strict rules and regulations regarding the proper way to carry them out. By contrast, the practice of IVF is a Wild West, and a secularized culture is now squirming and struggling against any attempt to adopt ethical safeguards or commonsense regulations.

But capital punishment and war are not the topics of this article. By obliquely interjecting these other issues, Scarborough “further distracts from the real issue,” Perkins responded.

“It’s just misrepresentation. It’s what you expect from MSNBC, right?” added Mohler. He further critiqued Scarborough for morphing from a congressman with “a basically pro-life pattern” into “a part of the cultural Left.”

Furthermore, “when it comes to the issue of abortion, and especially as it relates to Christianity, [Scarborough] just lies,” said Mohler. “So, for example, he’s come out and said that the Christian church was basically pro-choice for the first 20 centuries until the issue of abortion was hijacked by Republican operatives. That’s … a contradiction of clear biblical teachings. It’s also contradicted by the evidence of the early church.”

Indeed, abundant historical evidence demonstrates that Christianity has recognized the value of human life, even of infants and unborn babies, from the very beginning. Mohler referenced the Didache, a 2nd-century document arguing that “anything to do with abortion was incompatible with being a Christian.” “Not to mention,” Perkins added, “that it was the Christian church that went out and rescued the babies that were abandoned to exposure, to die because they were unwanted.”

The moral of the story is: don’t take the mainstream media’s narrative as the final word. “I see it a lot here in Washington, D.C.,” Perkins pointed out. “When I’m in a meeting on the Hill or something, then I come back and I read about it … it’s like, is that the same meeting? [It’s] totally distorted.”

Perkins suggested the reason for this distortion is “because you’re getting it through the lens of someone’s worldview. And oftentimes these reporters are hostile toward Bible-believing Christians. And so that’s going to come out in their reporting.”

“That’s why The Washington Stand [and] ‘Washington Watch’ is so important,” Perkins added. “And folks, that’s why you need to have the Stand Firm app so that you can get news and information from a biblical perspective.”

“We hear stories about the mainstream legacy media” and its bias, said Closson, but the reality is often far worse. “If I weren’t there in the room in Indianapolis, and I just looked at the major headlines, I would be very discouraged about the state of the Southern Baptist Convention. … Having been in the room, … I’m very encouraged. … Most of what happened in Indianapolis was God honoring and really exciting.”

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.