I have been active in the pro-life movement for about six years now. My boyfriend is not quite as active as I am, but he does come with me to marches, and he is a good listener as I bounce ideas off of him for SPL blog posts or I talk about some recent piece of abortion-related news. From everything I can tell we’ve been in agreement on the abortion issue, acknowledging that human beings begin as zygotes and that abortion destroys human beings.
The other night he learned that friends of his family had successfully completed IVF. As he was telling me about this he asked, “What’s the big deal with IVF? Don’t some people have a problem with it?” I told him that it can be controversial because the process typically involves creating multiple embryos, but not all of them are necessarily used in attempts at implantation. There is a question about what becomes of the extra embryos.
He responded that this isn’t the same issue as abortion because this isn’t about people irresponsibly having sex and ridding themselves of the results—it’s about people who genuinely want a child using science to help them achieve that.
A brief, tense conversation ensued.
To my view, if you believe the biological beginning of a human being (the zygote) has enough moral relevance to make abortion unethical, then non-abortion-related procedures that involve destroying human embryos are also unethical. I think the motivations of the people who choose to risk that destruction are of minimal relevance. Embryos could die because someone doesn’t want a child (abortion) or, actually, because someone does (IVF). If it’s unethical to destroy human embryos, it’s unethical either way.
(That’s not to say IVF is inherently unethical. Genetic parents can donate their extra embryos to third parties trying to have children, so IVF doesn’t necessarily mean the destruction of human embryos anyway.)