I recently wrote on this blog that the U.S. government gives out grant money to organizations who are willing to do community awareness on embryo adoption, i.e., the implantation of extra embryos from fertility clinics.
The pro-life movement has a problem with the whole fertility clinic phenomenom. On the one hand, here are these firms doing exactly what the pro-lifers want: creating babies. On the other hand, the process of creating these babies leaves many leftover embryos. Because the pro-life movement defines life as beginning when the sperm and the ovum meet (or, as one male writer on the topic describes it, when the sperm "pierces" the ovum) the leftover embryos constitute pre-born children to the pro-lifers, though pre-born children which happen to be frozen.
One organization offering embryo adoptions, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, actually calls them snowflakes. The organization's website has this advertisement:
NIGHTLIGHT CHRISTIAN ADOPTIONS WAS INTRODUCED BY PRESIDENT BUSH AT MAY 24, 2005, 2:10pm EST PRESS CONFERENCE ON STEM CELL RESEARCH. HE SPOKE OF THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE AND THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "SPARE EMBRYO."TWENTY ONE OF OUR SNOWFLAKES CHILDREN JOINED HIM IN ORDER TO PUT A FACE TO THESE EMBRYOS UNDER DISCUSSION.
CHECK YOUR LOCAL NEWS STATIONS FOR COVERAGE!
The website is an odd mixture pro-life statements and others which come across as describing the embryos as building material for future babies. I'm disturbed by this. Are all these embryos pre-born babies as this part says:
Finally, an option that makes sense! When your embryos were created, you knew that life had begun. When your embryos were implanted in you and you became pregnant, you prayed that your long wait for a child was nearly over. Like all pregnant women, you were probably filled with excitement - and apprehension - but, knowing that the baby's fate was in God's hands, you were ready.
Now that you have finished building your family, or have decided that embryo implantation is no longer in your plans, you are confronted with even more difficult decisions.
What will you do with the embryos that remain frozen? Destroy the embryos?... Donate them for research?...Donate the embryos for implantation?
There seems to be something missing in these choices. These embryos are your pre-born children and you want them to have a chance to be born. But, you also want some control over their destiny.
Or are they really seen as just embryos as this parts suggests:
The number of embryos a genetic family has will determine the number of embryos a family receives. Some genetic families may have twenty embryos; other families may only have two embryos. The adopting family adopts all of the embryos that the genetic family has. In any event, every adoptive family adopts a minimum of six embryos with which to begin their transfer process. Because our goal is for the adoptive family to have enough embryos for a chance at a pregnancy, they may be matched with two genetic families to achieve this goal.
Will Snowflakes work with a genetic family that has only one or two frozen embryos? And if so, will you support a process where the adopting family would receive embryos from multiple genetic parents?
Yes. Snowflakes provides at least 6 embryos to each adoptive family and will match an adopting family with 2 genetic families to achieve that number. The adopting family would have to agree to work with small numbers and possibly mix embryos in utero.
How did the agency decide on the number six?
The number six is based on the statistical success of embryo transfer from frozen embryos. The statistical reports from various clinics suggest a 50% success rate in thawing and 30% success rate in implantation. Therefore, if half of the six embryos survive thawing (resulting in three embryos transferred) the subsequent implantation rate of 30% would suggest that potentially one child would be born from the transfer of those three embryos. The statistics give us a starting point. There is no guarantee that a child will be born from every six embryos nor can there be a promise that multiples are not born. Based on these statistics, we have set six to be the number of embryos a family adopts.
This sounds like moral relativism and is not in accordance with proper pro-life sentiments. Embryos should be shipped in units of one, to guarantee maximum chance of life for each embryo. Anything short of this is disrespectful towards the pre-born babies.
The costs of these embryo adoptions are borne by the adopting families and come to about seven thousand dollars and up.
A 2001 article in the National Review Online about the Snowflakes Program I describe here has a fetching headline:
Frozen embryo adoption offers hope to microscopic Americans
The statistics given in the article suggest, though, that less than one in ten of these frozen little Americans were successfully converted into the kinds of Americans the pro-lifers don't care about: post-born ones. The hope offered is only partial, it seems.