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Southern Baptists oppose IVF procedure at Indianapolis convention

Hands holding ballot papers are raised.
Benjamin Thorp
Indiana Public Broadcasting
Members of the Southern Baptist Convention raise their ballots during a vote. The convention approved a resolution opposing in vitro fertilization on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

Representatives from some 50,000 churches gathered in Indianapolis this week for the Southern Baptist Convention and on Wednesday approved a resolution opposing in vitro fertilization, or IVF, as “dehumanizing."

The vote against the popular fertility treatment could signal a widening scope in the anti-abortion movement from evangelicals since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Earlier in the day, the Southern Baptist Convention fell just short of the two-thirds majority vote to codify a ban on women pastors. But that doesn’t change the organization's position on women serving in leadership roles.

The church members’ stance on IVF comes as the fight over abortion is expected to be a major issue in the presidential election between President Joe Biden and challenger Donald Trump.

IVF entails merging eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish to form an embryo. The treatment often creates more embryos than can be used for pregnancy. Those "extra" embryos can be frozen, used for research, or destroyed.

That’s a problem for Southern Baptists who see those embryos as people.

But the vote was very emotional for Zachary Sahadak of Ohio, who told the convention he does not see the technology as inherently wicked.

“I have a son because of IVF. I have another son, 20 weeks old, in my wife’s womb because of IVF,” he said. “I have ten embryos that I love and with every bit of my being we will have or see born into a Christian family.”

Despite that type of argument, the resolution to oppose in vitro fertilization passed overwhelmingly.
SBC leaders said the move indicates members' overarching concerns with the treatment — something they will point towards when advocating for, or against IVF legislation.

Recently, the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission sent a letter to lawmakers urging them not to move forward with the IVF Protection Act.

Multiple churches were removed from the organization for holding to the belief that women can hold the position of pastor, including a Virginia church this year.

Supporters of the change, like Ryan Fullerton from Louisville, Kentucky, said the amendment was about codifying existing rules.

“It’s not aimed at preventing women from serving in a church or being on staff,” Fullerton said. “All of us support women flourishing in the ministries that God calls them to.”

But others, including Hannah Estes from Missouri, worried the amendment was aimed at removing women from leadership roles throughout local churches.

“It just shows a lot of disunity and to me, we’re forgetting about the mission of the church,” she said. “We’re all about sharing the gospel but now we’re being nitpicky about who's doing that.”

The amendment needed a two-thirds vote in favor by attendees in order to pass but it fell short at 61 percent.

Contact health reporter Benjamin Thorp at bthorp@wfyi.org.

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