Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Protestant Perspectives on the Uses of the New Reproductive Technologies

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Protestant Perspectives on the Uses of the New Reproductive Technologies

Article excerpt


Ever since Adam and Eve brought forth the first children, human beings have tried to capture the processes of procreation and bring them under control. We find midwives assisting with childbirth as early as Exodus in scripture, and Caesarian section birth is seen in use in ancient Rome. (1) The pace of human interventions into procreation has increased rapidly over the generations to the point where today we are faced with an explosion of radically new methods that can be used to revise and repair reproductive processes. Technologies such as in vitro fertilization and egg donation are increasingly being employed for those who are infertile. (2) Reproductive cloning and the use of artificial wombs to bring children into the world are on the horizon. (3)

Protestant denominations span a broad range of views about the morality of employing such new reproductive technologies. (4) Although they embrace normative standards of conduct, many denominations do not have a central teaching authority to guide members who are concerned about whether to use these new ways of conceiving and bearing children. (5) Such questions are among matters of substantial morality left to individual conscience, guided by scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Since these various resources are each interpreted in somewhat different ways within Protestant thought, it is not possible to state the Protestant moral position about the use of the new reproductive technologies. Even so, certain relevant values and beliefs at the core of Protestant thought can be canvassed to gain a sense of how those adhering to this form of the Christian tradition tend to view the morality of employing these new technologies.

The Protestant tradition places high value on individual human dignity and choice. (6) It maintains that human capacities for understanding and willing, even though flawed, still reflect the image of God. (7) Consequently, individual decisions about the use of novel reproductive technologies are owed great respect. Couples should be allowed to weigh the ends and goods toward which these technologies can be put, and to choose among them based on their understanding of what Christian ethics requires.

Yet, individual human beings are not isolated atoms, (8) and procreation is not exclusively a private matter. (9) Bringing children into the world is a shared activity involving a relationship between prospective parents, and should children result from their relationship, another between parents and children. Moreover, procreation is inseparable from broader social relations and goods, in that it brings new members into the community who are owed care and. protection. Consequently, the way in which children are conceived and born, for the Protestant tradition, is not only a matter of individual concern, but also of familial, social, and Christian concern.

Evaluating which, if any, are appropriate uses of the new reproductive technologies within the Protestant tradition requires consideration of Christian teachings about the meaning of procreation, the good of the resulting children, and the integrity of family bonds. Such considerations have led many Protestant thinkers to contend that it is morally acceptable for individuals to employ these novel methods of creating children, but within certain limits. (10) Protestant thinkers differ, however, about exactly where these limits should be drawn. Even so, a certain degree of agreement can be found among them.


To understand the predominant Protestant approach to the use of reproductive technologies, it is necessary first to grasp the significance of procreation within Protestant thought. This can be better understood and explicated by contrasting it with Jewish thought. Within Judaism, procreation is heavily emphasized as the major end of sexuality within marriage. …

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