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Will Southern Baptist Opposition To IVF Affect Texas?

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant Christian governing body, has announced opposition to in-vitro fertilization (IVF). How likely is that to affect Texas? Probably less than it might appear.

Last week, Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate asking that the federal government “implement a system of federal oversight that protects and informs women and ensures embryos are treated with care, even as we oppose the general practice of IVF.”

This comes after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that IVF was illegal and an affront to “a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.” The ruling is being appealed but has temporarily halted the practice of IVF in the state.

IVF is a process where eggs are extracted from a person and fertilized with sperm in a lab before being implanted in the uterus. It is commonly used by couples having trouble conceiving children. Typically, fertility doctors will extract as many eggs as possible and fertilize them in order to have backups should the implantation fail. The storage and occasional destruction of the embryos is the latest front in anti-reproductive choice advocates’ ongoing culture war.

At first, having the nation’s primary Protestant body oppose IVF seems like it could lead to similar rulings in Texas or perhaps new laws. However, the SBC is not nearly as powerful in Texas as it is in some other states. The Baptist General Convention of Texas had an acrimonious split with the SBC in 1998 precisely over what they felt was increasingly hardline conservatism, and the rift has really not healed in the meantime.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas has over 2 million members in the state and has more than double the number of churches the SBC has. It has remained a comparatively moderate body compared to the SBC, though still firmly anti-abortion. Thus far, the body has not made any recent statements on IVF, but they have continued their partnership with Baylor since 2011, and Baylor does promote and perform IVF.

There is also the fact that almost every major Republican figure in Texas politics seems to be on the side of IVF in general. Governor Greg Abbott said in February that Texas couples should absolutely have access to IVF. Senator Ted Cruz filed a bill last month that would protect IVF. Even former president, current candidate, and convicted felon Donald Trump has stated that he would protect IVF if elected to a second term.

The SBC’s claim that the process of IVF itself is abhorrent to God probably has some supporters in Texas, but as of right now it doesn’t seem like a mainstream view. It’s alarming to have such a powerful body as the SBC oppose IVF, but there is no indication that opinion will carry enough weight in Texas to make it meaningful.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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