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Social & Policy Issues
Americans Back IVF; Divide on Morality of Destroying Embryos
Social & Policy Issues

Americans Back IVF; Divide on Morality of Destroying Embryos

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are broadly comfortable with the use of in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, with 82% saying it is morally acceptable and 10% saying it is morally wrong. However, they are more divided about destroying frozen human embryos created by in-vitro fertilization, with 49% believing it is moral to do so and 43% disagreeing.


These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-23, and mark the first time the survey has asked about IVF.

In February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos should be considered children under state law. IVF providers in the state responded by ceasing to offer services for fear of being held liable if embryos were destroyed. Weeks later, the Alabama government passed a law to exempt IVF providers from criminal prosecution, allowing them to reopen.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have introduced bills in the U.S. Senate aimed at protecting access to IVF nationally, with the Democratic version expected to face a procedural vote this week.

Within the general public, large majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans consider IVF morally acceptable. However, Democrats are the only partisan group that finds destroying frozen embryos to be moral, while independents and Republicans are more divided.


Religiosity is another important factor in explaining views of IVF. The most religious Americans, defined as those who attend religious services every week, are much less inclined than others to say IVF is morally acceptable. Sixty-three percent of weekly churchgoers believe IVF is acceptable, compared with 77% who attend services nearly weekly or monthly, and 91% who seldom or never attend.

Further, a majority of the most religious Americans consider destroying frozen embryos created by IVF to be morally wrong. In contrast, 55% of those who seldom or never attend religious services believe destroying frozen embryos is acceptable. Those who attend nearly weekly or monthly are about evenly split in their views of its moral acceptability.


IVF Among Most Morally Accepted Practices in U.S.

Each year in its Values and Beliefs poll, Gallup asks Americans whether they believe a wide range of behaviors and practices are morally acceptable or morally wrong. IVF trails only birth control (90%) in moral acceptability.

Discarding frozen embryos resides near the middle of the list of 19 issues, rated similarly to medical testing on animals. Americans are most likely to say extramarital affairs, suicide and polygamy are morally wrong.


None of these items show meaningful change compared with last year, with the exception of the death penalty. Fewer people today than a year ago consider the death penalty moral, returning public attitudes on it to 2022 levels.

Over time, Americans have become much more permissive in their views of these issues than they were when Gallup first asked about them, with many of the trends dating back to 2001.

Slight Majority Opposes Giving Embryos Legal Protections

Alabama is one of four U.S. states having laws that grant legal protections to human embryos, and 12 more states have had bills introduced to do the same. Similar legislation has been introduced, but has yet to advance, in Congress. A slim majority of 51% of U.S. adults are opposed to granting embryos some legal rights, while 43% are in favor.

Most Republicans (64%) are in favor of extending legal protections to embryos, while a larger majority of Democrats (73%) are opposed. Independents tilt more toward opposition (50%) than support (43%).

Views by religiosity are mirror images of each other -- 62% of those who attend religious services every week favor such laws, while 62% of those who seldom or never attend are opposed. People who occasionally attend church are evenly divided.

There are also differences by education, with college graduates mostly opposed to legal protections, while those with a high school education or less show slight support, with 51% in favor.

A majority of people residing in the South favor extending legal protections to human embryos, but majorities in the other U.S. regions are opposed.


Bottom Line

In-vitro fertilization has been thrust into the political conversation this year after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling. Democrats portrayed the ruling as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Many elected Republicans who support laws to grant legal rights to human embryos voiced their support for the practice of IVF, generally, even though the practice commonly involves disposing of unused embryos.

Broadly speaking, Americans from across the political spectrum favor IVF, although they are split over whether destroying human embryos created through IVF is appropriate and whether there should be laws giving them some of the same legal protections as people.

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View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).


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