Everyone will be familiar with the Sears Catalogue. With this catalogue in your hands, you can do your shopping while you sit in your comfortable chair. Now just imagine that you are leafing through a catalogue not filled with clothes, furniture and bedlinens, but with page after page filled with pictures of smiling happy babies! No, this is not even a catalogue of babies up for adoption, but of babies you can grow yourself in your womb. All you have to do is decide what type of baby you would like, a boy or girl, one with blue eyes and blond hair, or brown eyes and brown hair. And, you don't even have to be married! Whatever you desire, with the help of your doctor you can become the mother of a child. A frozen embryo is waiting for your order!
I'm sure that this sounds rather strange to your ears. We are all so used to the traditional way in which a husband and wife, under the blessing of the LORD, may conceive a child, which is then born some nine months later. Even the term “making babies” sounds wrong in our ears. Babies are not made by us, but the LORD makes them.
The age we live in has seen some tremendous developments in the field of technology, also in the field of medical science. Things that were never dreamed of fifty or even ten years ago are being done today. This is also true when it comes to babies, their conception and birth. For, while one group of scientists is probing the depths of space, another is probing the very fountains of life. Man increases in technological ability, and strives to control everything, also the whole birth process.
Why does man want to control the birth process, yes, even conception? It really is amazing that such great efforts are exerted to bring about conception in some women, while every day thousands of babies are routinely murdered in the abortion process. Still, it is one of the paradoxes and ironies of human life that while the one woman or couple does not want a child, and will just have it killed, other couples desire to have a child but are unable to receive one. According to statistics, one in nine couples of childbearing age, cannot conceive or easily maintain a pregnancy.
Various reasons are suggested as to why there seems to be such a high incidence of couples being unable to conceive. In some cases, women are suffering adverse effects of medication their mothers may have taken while pregnant. Thus some drugs taken while they were pregnant have been linked with rare forms of vaginal cancer or pelvic abnormalities in the daughters they bore. There is also a frequent occurrence of endometriosis, where the uterine lining gets into places where it does not belong. One specialist reported that over 50% of the women he dealt with had this problem. There is also a high rate of women who have chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease. Both endometriosis and chlamydia can cause serious difficulties in conceiving.
Many women also suffer side effects of birth prevention methods used earlier in life. The Intrauterine Device (I.U.D.) commonly used in the sixties and seventies, has contributed to pelvic inflammatory disease.
The primary problem, however, seems to be age. Many women are trying to have their first child only after they have busily pursued personal goals and careers. They have postponed childbearing, having placed it low, or last, on their list of priorities. It is thus especially women past the age of thirty, seeking to have their first child, who face the greatest difficulty in achieving conception.
Various methods have been developed to try and make it possible for apparently sterile couples to conceive a child.
In some couples, the problem lies with the wife, in that there is a physical problem. This problem can be anything from complete sterility to having blocked fallopian tubes or some other physical obstruction which prevents the male sperm from reaching the egg.
If the problem is merely a physical obstruction, although all the other body parts are in good health, all that may be needed is some corrective surgery. The possibility is also there to artificially inseminate the wife with the husband's sperm. This requires the assistance of a doctor. There is even a method now whereby the eggs of the women are helped to bypass the obstructions in order to make it possible for the sperm to fertilize them. In these situations, even though there is the assistance of a doctor, conception takes place in the womb, and the child is fully the offspring of the father and mother. This method is called “artificial insemination by husband” (A. I.H.).
The situation is different if one of the persons is completely sterile. If the husband is sterile, the possibility is there to obtain the sperm from an anonymous donor. This is called “artificial insemination by a donor” (A.I.D.). Here various possibilities exist. A woman may simply be artificially inseminated by sperm from a donor, in the hope of achieving conception. More common in this respect is what is popularly known as “test tube babies.” Several eggs will be taken from the wife, and under laboratory conditions, they will be fertilized with the sperm of some donor. This is more correctly called “in vitro fertilization,” meaning, that it is done in a small glass dish used by scientists. Then the doctor picks one of the fertilized eggs, which he implants in the woman. The rest of the fertilized eggs are either discarded or can be frozen for future use.
In this situation several objectionable elements enter the picture.
- First, a third party enters the marriage relationship in the form of an anonymous donor. Though the donor and the couple may never meet, his genetic material is still introduced. In connection with this there will be objections to the way in which the donor obtains his sperm. Further, often money is paid to these donors.
- In the second place there is the fact that fertilization takes place outside the womb.
- In the third place there is the fact that unused fertilized eggs are discarded, thus basically killing a fetus, since life begins at conception.
Then there is the possibility of the woman's being infertile. Again there are various approaches. It is possible for another woman to donate her eggs, which are then fertilized in the laboratory by the sperm of the sterile woman's husband. Once fertilized, the embryo is implanted in the sterile woman. A variation is that a donor woman is artificially inseminated. The fertilized egg is then flushed out of her and implanted in the sterile wife. This is called “in vivo fertilization,” or “embryo transfer.”
We can think of the same objections as before, namely, that a third party enters the marriage bond by contributing her genetic material. Again fertilization takes place outside the womb, which means that some embryos will have to be discarded. Even in the cases of embryo transfer, many embryos are destroyed in the process.
Another variation is that the donor woman not only contributes some eggs, or allows conception to take place in her womb, but that she will carry a baby for another couple. This is what is called “surrogate motherhood.” Once the baby is full term, it will be genetically half the surrogate mother's and half the father's from which she was artificially inseminated. A recent case in the U.S. brought this procedure to everyone's attention.
A variation of the surrogate mother is that another woman becomes the host mother, while the baby she carries is genetically that of another man and woman. Such a host woman merely places her womb at the service of another couple who, either because of health reasons or out of convenience, do not want the natural mother to carry the child.
We have suggested some areas of objection already. There is the fact that a third party enters the marriage relationship, even though this third party may remain anonymous. Normally when a third party enters the marriage covenant, we call that adultery, sin against the seventh commandment. Some argue that this is not the case here, for no one is motivated by lust. Still, we are dealing here with a technical, medical case of adultery. We should keep in mind the way the LORD made things in the beginning. The creation order is that husband and wife, united in love, would bring forth children. The norm, that is, the rule, is that children are born within the family. Where a donor enters the picture, the genetic material of someone else than the father or mother is introduced. One of the legal parents will not be a full biological parent. We should not confuse this with abortion, for here we are dealing with premeditated actions to conceive and bring forth a child.
Also in the sphere of the seventh commandment is the matter of decency. We confess in L.D. 41 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. One can question whether this is maintained when reproductive organs are manipulated outside the bond of marriage, in order to produce eggs and sperm for donation. A man would have to use various means either privately or under supervision of a doctor to obtain sperm samples. Such actions would be questionable. The LORD has placed sexual deeds within the framework of marriage. When a man does this alone, he separates what God has joined together.
Also for women donors, it amounts to unnecessary manipulation by doctors to obtain eggs. In all these things bodies become objects of human manipulation.
There is also the consideration that a man may father many children while never being married! Likewise, ethical problems arise when a single woman desiring a child would be artificially inseminated. We can even hear of lesbian couples getting children by means of this technology. The begetting of children is then placed outside the scope of marriage.
We must also note that the sixth commandment comes into play. Especially when fertilization is done outside the womb, many fertilized eggs have to be discarded. This amounts to abortion! Even in embryo transfer, eight out of eleven attempts to flush out the fertilized egg, fail. In all these efforts abortion is easily considered. If the parents or doctors suspect deformities, they will easily abort. If, in the case of a woman donor who was inseminated to have the fertilized egg flushed out there is a retained pregnancy, again abortion would be an easy option.
We can see then that man starts to play with life. He tries to make it at will, and if it does not suit him exactly, then it is done away with at will.
There is also the element of greed and exploitation. Some will donate or be a surrogate mother for a large fee. Thus, there is an attempt to make money from one's reproductive capabilities, which the LORD has given to be used within the bonds of marriage.
There are also many psychological problems. Certainly, there may be initial joy for a couple previously unable to conceive. But, later, problems can arise. A father may start to resent a child that is not biologically his. The same could happen to the mother. This will easily happen if the child later has behavioural problems. We should not discount this possibility. Even in the case where parents adopt a child, behaviour problems are often wrongly blamed on the original parents. In the case where a woman conceives through the sperm of a donor, there might even grow a longing in her to find out who really was the father, thus upsetting the love for her husband.
In the case of a surrogate mother, she may become very attached to the child and not want to give it up. Women who miscarry can feel a sense of great loss, especially if the baby had come almost full term. Maternal instincts would have to be suppressed for a mother to simply give up a child she carried in her womb.
There is also the problem that can develop for the child. There is the question whether parents should tell the child its special origin. If they don't, then they live their whole life with a lie. However, when the child knows, it is only natural that there will grow a longing to know who his real father (or mother) is. No matter how good the home may be, the desire to know one's biological roots is very strong.
There is also a tremendous danger of manipulation. We can hardly begin to imagine how far people will go. We should be aware of the various spiritual forces, ideologies, and philosophies, which will try to take advantage of this new ability to make babies. The idea of breeding a superior race, much in the same way that animal breeders try to develop better stock, is a reality to be contended with.
The idea of developing a super race is not new. Already in the fourth century B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato advocated this in his book The Republic. Plato did not know of the abilities of modern science when it came to making babies. Still, he knew of practical ways. He said that the whole process of mating and getting children should be controlled by the state. The state should choose the best men and women, physically and intellectually. They should be allowed to reproduce. Inferior people should be discouraged from mating. If children were born to them, they should be destroyed. Further, Plato thought that family life should be abolished. There should be a collectivization of children. Thus parents would not know who their children were, nor children who their parents were.
What we see here is the suggestion to manipulate people like a prize herd of cattle. This same philosophy is found today. Karl Marx, the father of modern communism, said that the family should be abolished, for it was a capitalist phenomenon, where women and children were practically slaves of a man. It is interesting that both Russia and China tried to abolish the family, but soon found that this was impossible, for it would lead to incredible chaos.
Despite this, there are still sociologists and feminists who talk in this negative way about the family and thus see a great ally in modern science's ability to make babies outside the bond of marriage. One man talks as if the family idea is inherently and dangerously evil. It is even said that the family is the source of all discontent in life.
The ability to “make babies” at will can thus become a dangerous tool in the hands of those who are anti-God and antifamily. It is a dangerous tool in the hands of those who base their thinking on evolutionary and humanistic principles. It is said that through selective breeding of the best people, people chosen for their good looks, intelligence, and genetic health, we will develop a better mankind. Yes, through selective breeding, man will reach perfection! To achieve this goal, there would be a need for strong leadership, basically a totalitarian state. A board of geneticists would have complete records of every person, especially of their genetic family tree. They would decide who could donate eggs and sperm. The rest of the men and women would be sterilized. Sterilized women would be allowed to carry a fertilized embryo, carefully chosen and fertilized in a laboratory under the control of the geneticists. In this way, fathers would be merely symbolic figures. Some feminists see this as ideal, for this would completely equalize the sexes. Sexual relations would merely be for pleasure, and nothing else. This also would open up for sexual relations with anyone, regardless of whether they were male or female.
Such talk may sound strange, yes, even scary. But, it is realistic. We mentioned Plato, who already promoted this idea. Hitler tried in Germany to produce a super race. Thus he wanted to eradicate all Jews and invalids and other undesirable people which would only weaken the race. And, we all will have heard the title of the popular novel, Brave New World, which speaks of conception and gestation completely outside the womb, in bottles! We should realize that today there are powerful philosophers and scientists who think that the only way the human race can survive is through such total genetic manipulation and control. Indeed, it is thought that the time has come that man must now take control of the forces of evolution in order that the climax of evolution, the perfect man, can be reached. It is an evolutionary principle that matter controls the mind; that is, chance developments have led to the development of human minds. The time has come, it is said, that man's mind start to control matter!
Born in sin
At the beginning we referred to the catalogue approach to having babies. Well, the technology is there to do that. There is a big problem, however, which the scientists are not willing to recognize. No matter how carefully you breed, it is impossible to breed sin out of the human race. It is noteworthy that despite the tremendous technological advances of the last one hundred years, man as a moral creature has not gotten any better. With the increased technology he only has more ways to show his total depravity! Just think of what modern technology has meant for the increase in terror and destructiveness in war.
What modern science does not want to recognize is that no matter how much control you exercise, you cannot control the heart of man. Producing a very strong, healthy race, most certainly will lead to increases in wickedness. It is also forgotten that the greatest leaders and men who had the most impact on human history, were often physically very weak. Just to mention one, John Calvin was a man of frail physical stature. Yet, how mighty an instrument of the LORD has he not been?
What we can notice in these modern attempts to breed a super race is that there is no room for Jesus Christ. Man thinks the only way to get rid of sin, to perfect mankind, is through selective breeding. Thus, it is thought that man has the power in himself to save himself. This is a purely evolutionistic viewpoint. The only way that man can be saved and delivered from sin is not through selective breeding, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Sinful parents produce sinful children. Only when we are born anew by the Holy Spirit can sin be overcome through faith in the blood of Christ. Of course, the message of the gospel, of Jesus Christ crucified, does not fit into modern man's thinking. The cross is folly to modern man, who thinks he can overcome sin by himself.
We should not be surprised, however, that man has been able to get so far in the field of science and technology. The LORD has laid tremendous capabilities within creation. Man was to go and have dominion over the earth. That mandate remains. What we see, however, is that man uses the potentials of creation not to the glory of God, but to his own glory. If we read Revelation 13 about the beast out of the earth, we see that sinful man will be able to do tremendous things.
After all this, it is time to draw some conclusions when it comes to children and man's ability to make them. When it comes to such matters as children, conception, and birth, then we must first of all keep in mind God's norms, His rules. His creation order is that husband and wife together are to procreate and fill the earth. Procreation is part of their mandate. When they do this in faith, God will be glorified.
The LORD clearly established marriage between a man and a woman. Though the Old Testament does give examples of men having more than one wife, this was not the norm, and seldom, if ever, gave the man true happiness. Think of the bickering between Hagar and Sarah, Jacob's wives, and Elkanah's wives. Think of the misery Solomon had with his one thousand wives! Adultery is definitely forbidden. This can also be extended to technical adultery, where a third party enters the marriage through the donation of an egg or sperm. Genetic material from someone else is introduced. The LORD has commanded husband and wife to be fruitful and multiply. If He closes the womb and then we try to introduce a third party to bypass that, we are stepping outside of what He has ordained.
It should be clear then that artificial insemination with the sperm from a donor is not acceptable, for we are introducing the genetic material from a third party. Likewise, the donation of eggs is to be rejected. In the same line, surrogate motherhood is to be rejected. In this case there is even the element of greed, as a woman hires out her womb. All these encroach on the marriage bond, call for improper actions, e.g. masturbation, and often involve aborting the unwanted extra embryos.
As far as artificial insemination from the husband is concerned, in order to bypass some blockage in the wife, we should not discount this too easily. Medical intervention should not be ruled out, even though we are dealing with the conception of babies. We do not hesitate to interfere throughout a pregnancy to help the mother keep the child. Likewise, caesarian sections, though medical interventions, are also very beneficial. It should be kept in mind that artificial insemination does not guarantee conception. This method merely makes it possible for the husband's sperm and the wife's egg to come together. Whether conception does take place remains outside human hands, but in the power of the LORD, who may or may not allow conception to take place.
We should approach this whole area of “making babies” with great care. Though we can perhaps see its benefits to help overcome a problem in the wife, it is open to much abuse. Much development in this field is motivated not by faith by man's curiosity, his desire to control everything. We live in an age where people always clamour for their rights, also their right to procreate. In the consumer society we live in, many couples feel that they have a right to have a child, and will thus go to any length to get what they want.
As children of the LORD, we confess that nothing takes place outside of God's providential care. This means that also when a couple desires children, but the womb remains closed, this is in the hand of the LORD. It can be very painful for young couples when their desire is not granted. Families which are richly blessed should sympathize with them, and be careful not to shut them out from regular activities, just because they have no children.
What we must watch out for, however, is an overly technical, medical approach. It is so easy to say when a woman does not get pregnant, that is simply a matter of the parts not functioning properly. Perhaps there is a medical obstruction. A visit to the doctor to find out would be most appropriate, and within the domain of our God-given responsibility. At the same time, let us not forget that we have a heavenly Father. Conception is not strictly a technical, physical matter. Conception is in His hand. He creates life when He so wishes.
We should thus pay proper attention to the spiritual factor, and lay also these concerns before the LORD in prayer. There are some examples in the Bible where the LORD opened the womb, not after the visit to the doctor, but after His children earnestly begged this of Him in prayer. We all are familiar with Hannah's prayer, which the LORD blessed by granting her a child, Samuel. There is also the case of Isaac and Rebekah. For some twenty years after they were married, Rebekah was barren. We read in Genesis 25:21 that Isaac prayed for His wife. Here is an outstanding example of the husband laying the concerns of him and his wife before the LORD. The LORD also answered that prayer. Certainly, there may be medical, physical problems. But, let us not forget to lay these things before the LORD in prayer. After all, we have ready access to His throne through our Saviour, our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who is always ready to intercede for us. Couples would do well to lay these concerns before the throne of their Father. Even if He does not grant the request for children, He will most certainly grant His grace. And His grace is always sufficient.
We should be careful also in how we look at receiving children. It is not some right we all have. Children are a blessing. We go in the wrong direction when we want children merely to satisfy our desires and wishes. Further, a marriage without children is not a failure. Receiving children and raising them requires much energy. Those who do not have children will have much extra energy they can direct elsewhere for the sake of God's kingdom. Perhaps they may decide to adopt a child, perhaps one of mixed race or slightly older or even handicapped. Perhaps they can find ways to use their energy to help other parents. Not having children may give the feeling of emptiness, but it does not mean at all that life is meaningless. It is just that energies can and should be spent elsewhere.
When we are dealing with babies, and with conception, then we are dealing with the springs of life. We are dealing with the creative work of God. As with everything else, man tries to control and manipulate it. It often seems that human life itself has become a plaything for man. We do best not to be wiser than God, but simply follow His normative way for family life and bringing forth children. It may never come to the point where we look at conception as merely “making babies,” as if they are consumer items we can order from the catalogue. Certainly, there is the human factor, in that babies are the fruit of love between the parents. Still, in the end babies are made by the LORD. He knits them together in their mother's womb. Man should know his limits also when it comes to the springs of life. And, rather than manipulate he should learn to appreciate and praise the creative work of God, also in the “making of babies.”