Religion & Infertility

According to a Pew Research Study circulated in 2017, about a third of Americans say that they find IVF treatments and surrogacy morally acceptable. Many of those who have ethical issues with IVF treatments claim the foundation of their disapproval lies in religious issues.

According to surveyed religious leaders, the issue arises when they consider the purpose of sex; which they believe to be a tool used to bring man and woman together as one to create life. As such, many leaders in Mormon, Catholic, and evangelical churches have theological problems with the use of donor sperm or egg to create an embryo. Despite strong messages of disapproval, donor sperm and eggs are becoming increasingly common across all demographics, including the faithful. Eric Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Church of Latter-day Saints, has issued statements stating that while the church strongly discourages this practice, the ultimate choice is left to the husband and wife.

When it comes to surrogacy itself, religious leaders who raise concerns report fears that surrogacy removes the mother and father from the pregnancy.  In other cases, some cite issues with same-sex parentage or single parents, saying that it can abstract the sanctity and purpose of marriage.

Despite the theological concerns that religious leaders report having with assisted reproduction and surrogacy, the real life impact is that the world is becoming a far friendlier place for children conceived through these methods. With infertility becoming less taboo, more people are speaking out about their difficulty conceiving and the life-affirming choice to become parents through the use of Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART).

Many of our surrogates come to us with a strong faith background and active support system in their places of worship. Often, surrogates who come from a firm foundation in the church are surprised when, in rare cases, their choice to become a surrogate is met with skepticism or disapproval from their church fellowship.

While most people applaud the choice to become a surrogate, a small handful considers it to be unethical in the light of how they perceive their faith. The expression, “If God wanted them to have a child, they would have had one,” is perhaps the most common phrase. Of course, surrogates and those who have ever been impacted by infertility know that this simply isn’t the case.

Growing Generations always encourages women to talk with her support network about the choice to become a surrogate before embarking on her journey. These are critical conversations to have, as a strong support network is one of a surrogate’s most vital tools for a successful journey. While the opinions of others should not dictate the choice to become a surrogate, understanding their emotions and point of view about the process before you begin is important.  While the vast majority of people in a surrogate’s life will support and celebrate the selfless decision to become a surrogate, not all will.

Of course, if a surrogate or surrogate applicant in our program is met with disapproval from her family of faith, Dr. Kim Bergman and the Fertility Counseling Services (FCS) team is always available to speak with her about her concerns. Overwhelmingly, we see the choice to become a surrogate as a selfless one that should be celebrated by all. We applaud you for selflessly giving of yourself to help others.

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.