Question Submitted: I am overwhelmed with the options out there for couples dealing with infertility. My husband and I are embarking on an IUI cycle this month which will include clomid, menopur, and hCG. I feel like there is a lack of information available regarding treatment options outside of IVF. I know where my beliefs stand on this, but the other options are pretty fuzzy for me. I feel pretty confident in my decision since it will not involve selecting good/bad embryos, but I still wonder where that line is regarding going beyond God’s plans and trying to take matters into your own hands.
Fuzzy. I think that’s a key word in your question. You’re absolutely right about there being a lack of clarity within our Christian circles about fertility treatment options. I applaud you for seeing clearly that IVF is not an option and for loving your neighbor by avoiding this process. But what about the other methods? Aside from the herbal or pharmaceutical treatments that can be taken to simply help with ovulation, the other options really revolve around the donation of sperm and the injection of that sperm into the womb, otherwise known as insemination.
“I still wonder where that line is…” you confess. Don’t we all? My husband and I dealt with this, too, as you can read about in a previous post, How Close Can We Get? But here’s a quick summary: we don’t know for sure where that line is. The Bible, which gives us God’s Law-those clearly drawn lines that are unmistakable-does not discuss IUI’s or GIFT or Clomid. As with many other modern scientific possibilities, Christians have to use what the Bible does give us in order to help guide our ethical decisions. I really think the post just mentioned is the best answer to your broader question, but I will try and unpack some of the other specifics here.
There are a couple of aspects to consider when looking at insemination procedures. First, there’s the fact that sperm needs to be collected. Second, conception would occur outside the act of intercourse. Both of these are a big deal and need to be taken seriously. The sperm collection topic will be addressed in a future post since there is so much to cover with that one (yes, the Bible does actually have something to say about this!). Let’s take a look at the second aspect.
The truth is, there just isn’t a unified opinion among conservative church bodies, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, about the necessity of intercourse for conception. The majority say that insemination, while done between a married couple, in no way violates their one-flesh union. They are using the broad definition, of course, that the union is the joining together of a man and a woman in a sexually faithful relationship for life. Narrowly speaking though, during insemination there is no physical union of fleshes at all. And it’s for that reason that the idea has always made me and my husband uncomfortable.
“You mean my husband and I don’t even have to touch each other and we can conceive a baby?” I remember thinking when we first looked into all those treatments. I had always thought the biblical references to our patriarchs “knowing” their spouses and then conceiving was so romantic. “Know” is such a great biblical word. It covers more than just the modern definition of sex, which so often occurs now between two people who have just met and don’t even know each other’s last names. I believed that “knowing” involved all those wonderful things that marriage should be: shared interests, shared faiths, shared experiences, a shared name, and shared bodies. This “knowing,” this union, was supposed to combine these two separate beings to produce another flesh, a child.
I realize that this romantic idea of my husband and I producing a miniature version of ourselves as a result of our physical love is probably never going to happen. But the desire to make that dream come true has never been strong enough to drive us to remove the physical aspect from the “knowing” of each other in order to achieve the end goal.
There isn’t a commandment about this. As I mentioned, most pastors would probably say that my conscience is over-active. But when you go against your conscience you are sinning, regardless of whether the action you are doing is, in fact, sinful. “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean,” Romans 14:14, and “For whatever does not procede from faith is sin,” Romans 14:23. The study note in my Bible explains these verses further: “If one’s conscience is not clear before God regarding certain behaviors, one dare not engage in them,” (TLSB pg. 1938).
“I feel pretty confident in my decision…” A decision as big as this needs to be made without a nagging conscience and with the support of your pastor. If you aren’t able to get both of these, pray for strength to step back and re-evaluate your options. And if you’re not sure what to pray, just open your hymnal.
Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways,
To keep His statues still!
Oh, that my God would grant me grace
To know and do His will.
Order my footsteps by Thy Word
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
Lutheran Service Book, hymn 707, verses 1 & 2