Saving Lives with Embryo Adoption
It is estimated there are 400,000 frozen human embryos, left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF), in storage across the nation. While legitimate controversy does exist in the pro-life community over the ethics of IVF, there is near universal agreement that these tiny human beings should be protected and given life, instead of being killed.
Allow me to digress for one moment to quote my colleague, Dr. Willke. It's important that pro-lifers use the correct terminology when talking about ending the life of human embryos. We should always say that the embryos are "killed" not "destroyed." Things are destroyed, but human beings are killed. It helps to keep the humanity of this tiny person at the focus of our debate and discussions.
Many parents of frozen embryos face an ethical dilemma. The IVF treatment may have been a success and they feel their family is complete, but extra embryos remain. Other parents may have failed to achieve a successful pregnancy and either gave up, or ran out of money to fund this expensive endeavor. While other parents become divorced and either change their minds about having children, or cancel any plans for more. We've even read news reports where the embryos have become the center of an ugly custody dispute.
Whatever the reason, parents have few options on what to do with their additional children. Storage fees average eight hundred plus dollars every year. Most are aware they can donate them to science to be killed during experimentation.
The other obvious choice would be to thaw and kill them immediately. Sadly, few parents realize they have a third, life-affirming choice. They can place their embryos for adoption with another couple.
Lisa and Kelly were faced with the quandary of what to do with their extra embryos. After the very first cycle of IVF when two embryos were implanted, they were blessed with twins. Not wanting more children and left financially strapped after the expensive IVF treatment, they were hard pressed to continue paying the high storage fees for their additional seven embryos.
That's where Embryos Alive came in. It's an organization that facilitates the adoption of frozen embryos. In Lisa and Kelly's case, it was a godsend. They were intent on not killing their seven additional babies, who were waiting to be given a chance at life. Like conventional adoption, a variety of choices are available to the biological parents. In this case they selected a couple to adopt their embryos. They wanted pictures, but insisted on anonymity. Other parents have opted for a more open arrangement.
In the case of Lisa and Kelly's embryos, four were implanted, which resulted in the birth of a baby boy. As this column is being written, the same adoptive parents are waiting word on the success or failure of the remaining three embryos. If successful, the children will be blood siblings. Regardless of the outcome, Lisa and Kelly know they've done everything possible to give life to all of their embryos.
The blessings aren't limited to only the parents who place their embryos for adoption. Those receiving the gift of life, when other conventional options fail, are elated to become parents.
Ronda and Gary had begun looking into international adoption when they discovered the option of embryo adoption. Their home is a much more busy place since fifteen-month-old Joshua was born. And Ronda is again pregnant with Joshua's biological brother or sister. This couple feels tremendously blessed to have the family they thought at first was impossible.
In addition to Embryos Alive, other organizations exist to facilitate embryo adoption. Two of them are Snowflakes and the National Embryo Donation Center. Undoubtedly others exist. It's reported that there are currently more parents wanting to adopt embryos than the number of those available. In large part this is due to the fact that parents are not aware of this life-affirming option. Therefore, awareness is key to saving tens of thousands of human embryos now held in frozen storage.
It may very well be possible that adopting embryos costs less to the would-be parents than conventional adoption. With embryos the cost is less than regular IVF because the biological parents have already met many of the upfront expenses. This includes the harvesting of eggs and sperm, as well as fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory. Two weeks after the embryo(s) has attached to the lining of the womb, the mother's pregnancy is like that of a naturally conceived child. She and her husband also enjoy the bonding time during the gestational period.
If you or someone you know is interested in either placing their embryos for adoption, or adopting embryos, go to: www.lifeissues.org/embryo_adoption/index.html. You will find links to the three agencies I mentioned above.
The ratio of success for assisted reproductive technology has dramatically increased over the last decade. This is all the more reason to generate awareness regarding how this technology can be used to protect and preserve life. [Life Issues Connector, 1/07, www.lifeissues.org, From The Executive Director Bradley Mattes]
EMBRYO ADOPTION SAVED— Despite the passage of the Stem Cell Enhancement Act in the U.S. House, pro-lifers won the public relations war on this fast emerging issuing. Thanks to "Snowflake Families," families who adopt unwanted frozen embryos at fertility clinics, the media were forced to show that life does begin at conception.
These snowflake babies were frozen as embryos and now are living, breathing, healthy children. President Bush even hosted a birthday party for them at the White House! The front page of the New York Times and the Washington Post both pictured President Bush holding a snowflake baby and ran articles on embryo adoption.
Just two week
s ago, supporters of the bill were claiming they had enough votes to override a presidential veto. Now, those claims are completely crushed, as pro-lifers count 194 votes (well over the 145 needed to sustain a veto).
Now the fight turns to the Senate. “Be sure to call your Senators and tell them to oppose using taxpayer dollars to destroy human embryos.” [3June05, EF News & Notes]
The Food and Drug Administration FDA has published an interim final rule that corrects previously published overreaching and burdensome restrictions that would have squeezed the life out of the nascent embryo adoption movement.
The FDA had originally planned to begin requiring, effective May 25, extensive tests on cryopreserved human embryos and the couples who may donate the embryos. Scientific evidence and counsel provided by the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) and CMA physician members, however, demonstrated that these requirements were not indicated by any evidence of public health concern, would prove prohibitively costly and would discourage couples from donating their embryos instead of having them destroyed.
The FDA noted in publishing its interim final rule, "After FDA published final rules addressing donor testing/screening and good tissue practice, we heard from individuals who facilitate embryo donation and professional societies representing reproductive tissue establishments regarding their concerns about the impact of the new regulations on the timing of testing of oocyte (egg) donors and on embryo donation. Since publishing the rules, we learned that specific provisions regarding timing of testing and screening of donors could have the unintended effect of discouraging oocyte and embryo donations, because testing and screening may be difficult to schedule in conjunction with conditioning regimens for oocyte donors and because embryos originally formed for use by a sexually intimate couple may not be donated until long after the tissues were collected and the prescribed time for testing and screening has passed. The interim final rule is intended to correct this problem."
The CMA has promoted embryo adoption as a life-honoring alternative to destroying embryos created for but not used for in-vitro fertilization. CMA is currently assisting with a $304,000 embryo adoption awareness grant project funded by HHS, and also helped establish the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in TN. The NEDC assists childless couples in receiving and giving birth to embryos not implanted by their genetic parents.
To receive educational information for your patients regarding embryo donation and adoption, contact the National Embryo Donation Center, Phone: 866-585-8549 – E-mail: [email protected]. [May 25, 2005, CMDA Press Release; Dr. DeCook, AAPLOG]