Human Exceptionalism

Embryo Adoption in the News

Italy regulated IVF, only permitting 3 to be created at once and requiring that all embryos that come into being in the procedure be implanted.

Had the USA implemented such a policy, we wouldn’t have 400,000 embryos in deep freeze. Some look at these nascent humans as a natural resource for use in research. Others, on the other hand, feel called to “adopt” these excess embryos and gestate them to birth.

This procedure is known as “embryo adoption,” and it is beginning to gain a lot of attention, evidenced by a front page story in today’s Seattle Times. From the story:

The day the frozen embryo arrived via FedEx was the day Maria Lancaster began experiencing firsthand what she had always believed: that human life begins at conception.
Lancaster was 46 and, after having three miscarriages, she and her husband, Jeff, longed for a child. One day, they heard about “embryo adoptions”–where couples who’ve gone through in vitro fertilization donate any leftover embryos to infertile couples. Several months of soul-searching later, they received a frozen embryo from a North Carolina clinic–cells that were thawed and implanted in Lancaster’s womb. Now Lancaster looks at her 5-year-old daughter Elisha–lively and precocious–and thinks: miracle. “It was a demonstration to us that every embryo is a complete, unique and total human being in its tiniest form,” Lancaster said.

Lancaster has now started her own embryo adoption service.

I wrote about embryo adoption and a similar service called “Snowflakes” in Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World, in which I interviewed both adopting mothers and the donors. The donor was thrilled her son was brought to birth, and the boy’s parents were absolutely ecstatic about their growing family. During our interview, I heard the baby crying and marveled that he had been in the deep freeze only a little while before.

There are debates in some circles about the morality of this. I think this flows from opposition to the IVF procedure per se. Others may object to one woman carrying the baby of another. And still others may resent the pro life message as presented in the story. As for me, regardless of what one believes about any of that, bringing the child to birth is in keeping with the reason the embryo was brought into being in the first place. It isn’t the answer to the embryo surplus because there are so many in cold storage. But surely, it is one answer.

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