In the U.S., an estimated 600,000 human embryos are frozen and in storage at hospitals and infertility clinics.
Some will be implanted in women’s wombs in in vitro fertilization with the hope that they will grow and be born; but the fate of the others is less certain. Some may be used later when the couple attempts to get pregnant again, others may be discarded or donated to research. But as awareness increases about embryos, who are very young but living human beings, some are taking a different, life-affirming route and adopting them.
Scientific evidence shows that human life begins at the moment of conception. These very young embryos are human beings who already have their own unique DNA, which determines their sex, hair and eye color and other characteristics.
According to the BBC, a growing number of American couples are adopting embryos who are stored frozen in infertility clinics and giving them a chance at life.
One of those couples is Aaron and Jennifer Wilson, who adopted Sawyer Lacey (pictured). They told the BBC:
“We’re Christian and we’re very pro-life so we thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a great way of putting our pro-life beliefs into action by giving these frozen babies a chance to be born,'” says Jennifer Wilson.
From the couple’s point of view the embryos represent tiny lives, frozen in time, that need saving.
“We believe the Bible has several passages that speak to the fact that life begins at fertilisation,” says Aaron.
“For us, you take something like IVF, which typically produces a lot of embryos – we view that as a lot of children. Our concern, as Christians, is how do we respond to that, how do we care for this life?”
In November 2010, Jennifer Wilson got pregnant at the NEDC’s small clinic in an out-of-town retail park with twins from donated embryos. Abel and Belle have just turned five.
The Wilsons recently adopted three more embryos and had them implanted in Jennifer’s womb, but none of them survived, the report states.
“Even if we lose them, we believe those lives are with the Lord in Heaven, and that’s better than being left in cryo-preservation,” she said.
According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, embryo adoption has increased significantly in the past five years, from about 600 adoptions in 2009 to about 1,100 in 2014. Experts attributed the increase to a growing interest from conservative Christians and pro-lifers.
The U.S. government also promotes embryo adoption, giving anywhere from $1 million to $4 million a year to raise awareness, according to the report.
Here are more facts on embryo adoption from the report:
- Success rates vary but about 36% of donated embryo transfers – typically involving multiple embryos – result in live births in the US
- Embryos can survive in frozen in liquid nitrogen for an indefinite period of time – babies have been born from frozen embryos for more than 20 years
- The average price of an IVF cycle in the US is $12,400, according to the ASRM, while adoption costs between $20,000 and $35,000
- Embryo donors are not paid but are reimbursed by the recipient for some expenses
- As embryo donation is regarded by U.S. law as the transfer of property and rights, donors and recipients are advised by Resolve, the National Infertility Association, to get legal representation
Babies who are born through embryo adoption are sometimes referred to as snowflake babies. Hannah Strege was the first baby to be born alive after being adopted as an embryo. She was born on Dec. 31, 1998 to John and Marlene Strege.
Nathanael Bennett, the Director of Government Affairs for the American Center for Law and Justice, wrote at LifeNews in 2012, “As evidenced by Hannah (and many more after her), the result can be truly life-giving, and can help couples realize the desire of welcoming a child into their family.”