The Thought Experiment
The Burning IVF Lab (also referred to as the Burning Fertility Clinic) is a thought experiment intended to demonstrate that people opposed to abortion don’t sincerely believe embryos are valuable human beings. The idea is that an IVF lab is on fire and you can save either a group of embryos (sometimes in a petri dish, sometimes frozen, sometimes it’s 10 embryos or 100, it varies) or a child (sometimes an infant, sometimes a toddler or a 5 year old, it also varies). Many people, including people who oppose abortion, intuit that they would choose to save the older child rather than the embryos, and abortion rights proponents claim this intuition indicates anti-abortion folks don’t really believe embryos are valuable human beings.
This thought experiment has been around a long time, as have pro-life responses to it.
First, a quick video:
And then some articles and podcasts episodes:
- Secular Pro-Life blog: The Burning Fertility Clinic Argument Is Not Convincing, by Alex Hyun, published 3/16/2022
- Equal Rights Institute: Four Practical Tips for Responding to the Burning Fertility Clinic (podcast), published 1/5/2018
- Friendly Atheist: Here’s Why the Fertility Clinic “Dilemma” Doesn’t Prove Pro-Life Hypocrisy, published 12/12/2017
- The Fetal Position Podcast: Episode 42: The Burning IVF Lab Analogy, published 12/4/2017
- healingtheculture: A Response to the “Burning Fertility Clinic” Scenario, published 11/7/2017
- Equal Rights Institute: Four Practical Tips for Responding to the Burning Fertility Clinic (blog post), published 10/27/2017
- Public Discourse: Embryos and Five-Year-Olds: Whom to Rescue, by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen, published 10/19/2017
- Secular Pro-Life blog: Pro-Choice Thought Experiment: The Burning IVF Lab, by Clinton Wilcox, published 10/9/2013