An Angle on IVF (Final Paper) – Vijaya Reddy

Good Evening. Today, I would like to address the debate regarding the validity of IVF (in vitro fertilization), and I will also provide my personal statement concerning IVF and whether or not it should be prohibited or permissible in America as a whole.

As our world is rapidly advancing and globalizing, I believe we, as a nation, should keep up with the world’s pace by addressing the benefits and drawbacks of these assisted reproductive technologies and deciding how they would affect American society. Within our nation, there is an internal divide between people who believe IVF should be banned as it undermines human dignity and people who advocate for IVF as a potential way to fulfill their individual desires or religious obligations to have children. This controversy persists due to the differences in cultures and various backgrounds in America along with the moral consequences associated with IVF.

First and foremost, I want us all to acknowledge that America is an extremely diverse nation with an immense variety of religions and cultures. Almost every religion contains its own unique ideals and regulations on procreation. Some religions, such as Hinduism and Islam, place a huge emphasis on the importance of having children, and as a result, couples often are inclined to use IVF as a last resort to fulfill their religious expectations. Other cultures, such as Roman Catholicism, emphasize children are a part of life and a gift from God, which means humans should not interfere with God’s creations. Because of America’s large scale diversity, I believe there is no possible way we can effectively regulate the use of IVF, and banning IVF as a whole would be the equivalent of denying individuals the freedom of religion because we are obstructing certain individuals from fulfilling their religious obligations. Therefore, I strongly advocate that IVF should be condoned as it allows people to attain their religious obligations; it brings infertile couples happiness by putting them out of their depression and suffering, and, as I will explain later in my testimony, many major religious texts throughout the world illustrate and condone the use of IVF and many other assisted reproductive technologies.

On the other hand, many people align with the Catholic Church in that they believe that if the embryos are living, they must be respected like any other person, and since several embryos are destroyed during the process of IVF, the Catholic Church condemns the use of IVF. Additionally, Catholics follow natural law, which is both an agreement with scripture and an agreement with reasoning, and natural law prompts them to believe that assisted reproductive technology is permissible when it is in the context of a legitimate marriage (marriage recognized by biology and society) and does not allow the third party to intervene with the marriage’s moral and social values. The Catholic Church also believes, in respect to natural law, that “reproductive technology enables man to dominate the process of procreation”, which impels him to surpass the limits of “reasonable dominion” over nature (Donum Vitae 141).While I do agree with the Catholic Church that “human life must be respected from the very instant of existence”, I believe human life begins when the fetus has been delivered out of the womb since it takes its first breath within ten seconds of its delivery; therefore, in my opinion, an embryo is not a human and cannot be given the same rights as a human (Donum Vitae 151). In addition, I do not believe that the Catholic Church’s view on reproductive technology is the direct reflection of God’s will, rather it is a radical, strict interpretation of the Bible. People should not be forced by law to follow another man’s interpretation of a religious text; they should have the freedom to form their own understandings and decisions on IVF and assisted reproductive technologies. Chiefly, the Catholic Church’s regulation that reproductive technologies can be allowed for only a legitimate marriage with no third party intervention is distorted since Jesus, the son of God, was born through his surrogate mother, Mary. Here, there was no legitimate marriage between Mary and God the father, but Mary got pregnant through the Holy Spirit without sexual intercourse. This can be seen as a divine form of IVF and surrogacy, so it is hypocritical for the Catholic Church to ban the use of assisted reproductive technologies when Jesus himself was conceived through a surrogate mother. Lastly, as the Catholic Church believes humans should not interfere with God’s process of procreation, Jewish teachings emphasize that “ human beings – since they were created in God’s image -… are explicitly required to interfere with God’s creation” (Prainsack 180). The point I am trying to articulate is that each culture has its own interpretation of religious text, and we would be imprudent to force people by law to follow a specific interpretation of religious text.

Furthermore, many cultures and traditions with reference to religious texts exemplify that having children is a crucial aspect of life that people must attain and experience. For instance, in the Book of Genesis, God orders humans to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 2). Here, God places an obligation upon humans to reproduce, but God does not mention how humans should reproduce; therefore, whether a child is conceived through a natural marriage or IVF, the obligation to reproduce has been fulfilled. This is one of the reasons why Israel, a Jewish nation, is a pro-natal state and why Israelis place a huge emphasis on the importance of motherhood as “the most primal and natural goal for women” independent of marriage (Kahn 122). Additionally, in Israeli society, most women chose IVF because they believed it was better than having sexual relations with a man, it was less expensive and less complex than adoption, and it presented the opportunity to have one’s own genetic children who are respected in society as ” legitimate, full-fledged Jews” (Kahn 141). Currently, around 6-7 million Jews live in the United States, and unlike Catholics, they focus on legal portions on biblical text. Basically, if the use of the assisted reproductive technology is not prohibited in the Bible or the Torah, it is usually condoned for the sole purpose of “fulfilling the divine commandment of procreation” (Prainsack 174). In the Bible, when Sarah could not bear children, she gives her servant, Hagar, to her husband Abraham in order to obtain a child; this is an example of “traditional surrogacy”, in which the mother is impregnated with the sperm of a man—often one whose wife is incapable of producing eggs—usually by means of artificial insemination (Seeman 344). Traditional surrogacy was a common practice at the time, since a childless woman was shamed by her family and community. If we ban IVF and other reproductive technologies, we are not only denying individuals the means to attain their religious obligations; we are denying them the freedom of choice and the ability to pursue what they think is best for their circumstances.                                                

Similar to Judaism, Hinduism also has a more accepting attitude towards IVF and other reproductive technologies as a loophole to infertility because Hindus, like Jews, also place a huge emphasis on the significance of having children. Essentially, most Hindus read or listen to portions of the Mahabharata, an ancient, crucial Indian epic, at least once in their lifetime; therefore, it “occupies a special place within Hindu traditions” by preserving insights of its own time and providing guidance for the future ( Bhattacharya 30). In the Mahabharata, when Pandu, the king of Hastinapur, finds out that he possesses a curse that will inhibit him from having children, Pandu miserably says, “For a childless man they say…there is no door to heaven. Therefore I who am childless am much troubled” (Bhattacharrya 50). Thus, even though there is not a Hindu law that proclaims Hindus are obligated to reproduce, most Hindus feel that it is their duty, or dharma, to produce good children that will benefit the society as a whole, and if they do not complete this duty, they believe that they will be prevented from reaching heaven or moksha, a state of peace. Assisted Reproductive technologies are seen as a last resort to fulfill an individual’s dharma, and as a result, secure a peaceful afterlife. Furthermore, in the Mahabharata, when Kunti and Madri, the wives of Pandu, are upset that they cannot conceive children, they each contact a God that has desirable qualities, such as leadership, strength, and power, who gives them a child. By getting impregnated through God, Kunti and Madri accessed a “divine sperm bank” just as modern Hindus seek artificial insemination to combat infertility (Bhattacharrya 42). In addition, just as Kunti and Madri had the opportunity to choose which God their child came from, modern Hindus carefully select their donors based on what qualities they want their child to possess. Because reproductive technologies hold their place in the Mahabharata and possessing children is a common cultural standard in Hindu society, we cannot ban IVF in America. Prohibiting the use of IVF and other reproductive technologies to approximately three million Hindus who live in America would be unjust as we are not considering how penetrating the desire and expectation to obtain children is in Hindu society, and as a governing body; it is our duty to ensure the happiness and well-being of our citizens.                                                                                                                                                                                                In summation, due to America’s wide diversity, I believe there is no effective way we can regulate the use of IVF, and banning IVF entirely would take away the religious freedom of citizens as we are preventing certain individuals from fulfilling their religious obligations. Thus, I strongly advocate that IVF should be condoned as it allows people to attain their religious obligations; it brings infertile couples joy by putting them out of their misery and suffering of not being able to conceive a child, and several major religious texts throughout the world chronicle and accept the use of IVF and many other assisted reproductive technologies as a loophole to infertility. For these reasons, I believe funding for IVF should not be ceased, but it should be restricted and determined upon on the income level of the family and the family’s moral and social values; IVF should only be offered for procreation purposes.

Thank You for your time.


Works Cited:

Book of Genesis, chapters 1-2 <>

Donum Vitae In Shanon, Thomas A. and Lisa Sowle Cahill, Religion and Artificial Reproduction: An Inquiry into the Vatican “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Reproduction.” (Crossroad, 1988).

Susan Martha Kahn, Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000).

Don Seeman, “Ethnography, Exegesis and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel.” In Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli and Yoram S. Carmeli editors, Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies Among Jewish Israelis (Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. 340-362.

Swasti Bhattacharya, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology (Suny University Press, 2006).

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science 2006: 173-205. e-reserve

One Reply to “An Angle on IVF (Final Paper) – Vijaya Reddy”

  1. Dear Vijaya,

    Thanks for this! I think it is far from likely that anyone will seriously try to ban IVF in the United States but I appreciated your forceful defense nonetheless. Defending on religious freedom grounds is interesting, though one might counter that the destruction of an embryo is not a religious matter so much as a fundamental question of human life and the rights it bears. You are certainly right that we have lots of diversity on this question, though I think you are too quick to talk about “Hindus” and Hinduism on the basis of one author who is self consciously trying to create a field that never existed before! Try to be more nuanced in your depictions and use more direct quotes from the readings. Nevertheless, good job.

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