Is a Frozen Embryo a Person?

Recently, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are considered persons. The decision was issued in response to wrongful death cases in which frozen embryos—procured through in vitro fertilization—had been destroyed at a fertility clinic. While the Court had previously ruled that fetuses in the womb must be treated as persons, it now expanded Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act to include embryos in a clinical setting.

“Unborn children are ‘children,’” wrote Justice Jay Mitchell in Friday’s majority ruling, “…without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics.”

As expected, progressive leaders and organizations descended into hysterics. RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, described the Alabama ruling as “a terrifying development for the 1 in 6 people impacted by infertility who need in vitro fertilization to build their families.” It also warned, “This ruling has profound implications far beyond Alabama’s borders. Every American who wants or needs access to family building options like IVF should be deeply concerned about this development and the precedent it will set across the country.”

The Christian view is that human beings are persons no matter where they are located—whether inside of the womb or out.

Moreover, left-leaning activists are leveraging the Alabama decision to tilt the 2024 election cycle in the Democratic party’s favor. On cue, Vice President Harris referred to the ruling as “outrageous” and said that it “is already robbing women of the freedom to decide when and how to build a family.” Similarly, Democratic consultant L. Joy Williams referred to the ruling as an “escalating attack” on American citizens that will backfire during the upcoming Presidential election. The World Socialist Website called it “a deadly threat to democratic rights” supported by “fascists like Trump.”

The national debate sparked by the ruling should cause us to reflect on the biblical response to this decision.

Should Christians agree with this ruling?

The biblical perspective of life and death is clear accordinging to God’s law. The sixth commandment reads, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13). In fact, the Bible from beginning to end reminds us that God is the creator of all human life and that human beings have a special relationship to him as his image bearers. Death is always an unwelcome intruder in God’s plans.

Moreover, the Christian view is that human beings are persons no matter where they are located—whether inside of the womb or out. Consider God’s statement to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you [in the womb], I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you” (Jer 1:5); or David’s reflection that he was born a sinner from the time of conception (Ps 51:5). This biblical teaching is confirmed by The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Christians should be careful not to begin their decision-making process with recent innovations as the starting point and then turn to Scripture to justify their decision.

Once an egg is fertilized, resulting in an embryo, a human image bearer has been created. Bioethicist David Van Drunen writes:

Fertilization is a unique and radical event. Before fertilization there is nothing recognizably identifiable as the human life that will develop into a full-grown human person. After fertilization, the embryo experiences an unbroken and continuous development, and at no point in that development does the embryo/fetus/child undergo a radical transformation from one sort of being into another sort.

It is clear that Christians should approve of the Alabama ruling. Once a sperm has fertilized an egg, a new substance has been formed: a human being, created in God’s image and likeness. It is morally wrong, and should always be legally wrong, to purposely shed innocent blood.

Facing Infertility with Faith and Hope

Any discussion of IVF involves the recognition of infertility as a deep sadness experienced by many couples. Though modern medicine and technology offer innovative solutions, these solutions often come with unnoticed moral costs of their own. Thus, Christians should be careful not to begin their decision-making process with recent innovations as the starting point and then turn to Scripture to justify their decision. Instead, we should begin with God’s revelation in Scripture that brings hope and encouragement to the infertile, and after doing so, evaluate modern innovations in light of biblical teaching.

Another Move in the Right Direction

The overturning of Roe v. Wade marked a profoundly positive shift in our nation’s legal approach concerning the sanctity of human life. No longer would the Court protect one of the most barbaric practices in human history, one that killed more than 70 million babies in utero under the guise of guarding “reproductive rights.” Yet, even with this victory in hand, evangelicals should neither weary nor rest until every unborn life is protected in law.

Thus, we must support state Supreme Court rulings such as Alabama’s as yet another step in the right direction. The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling is not “just another” legal judgment. It is a landmark decision that will likely influence ongoing discussions and policies regarding reproductive technology, ethics, and the rights of the unborn across the United States and beyond. Roe v. Wade was a moral disaster for our nation, and the Alabama ruling is a step forward in making our country hospitable to the unborn once again.


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