Won't Embryo Adoption Encourage More Couples To Use IVF?


One of the most common criticisms of embryo adoption is this: If there is suddenly a surge in embryo adoptions, more couples will pursue in vitro fertilization. This is, of course, problematic for many Christian families. If IVF often results in the creation of more embryos than can be used -- and many that will not survive the process -- why encourage embryo adoption at all?

To me, this is unfortunate at best and heartbreaking at worst.

Let me explain why I hold this position. Julie and I have never experienced the devastation of infertility, nor have we had to consider all of our options for building a family. We had the choice of pursuing a family through conventional means and, more recently, embryo adoption. Thus, everything I am about to say should be read through the lens of that giant caveat.

I cannot envision that we would have pursued IVF personally knowing what I know now -- that many embryos do not survive the process or do not meet the highest quality standards, that many others are often frozen for future use (some placed for adoption, others perhaps not), that it can create an agonizing experience for families of remaining embryos.

But what I would do personally is, in my view, of no consequence here. Instead, consider these points that I believe are more pertinent to the discussion:

  • Many couples who use IVF are unaware at the time that they will have remaining embryos.
  • Couples from time immemorial have desired their own biological children, and I strongly suspect that desire will never change -- we simply have new technology that makes it feasible even in cases where couples cannot conceive.
  • Each created embryo represents a human life, regardless of your position on IVF or family planning technology.

In this light, then, embryo adoption will never -- and should never -- become a massive untapped economic driver. Rather, embryo adoption is about honoring all life, even life we have created with technology that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. 

My (admittedly limited) experience suggests couples seeking to have a baby are not driven first by the notion that their remaining embryos can be placed with a loving family through adoption. That process alone can be emotionally grueling, and it often happens several years later. Instead, they are driven by the desire to build a family all their own.

I'm so very thankful adoption exists -- as are many families that have used IVF -- but the existence of the adoption option, at least anecdotally, is not encouraging higher IVF use. Instead, other factors are encouraging IVF, such as couples who are delaying having children until they are older. In other cases, scientists can't explain why infertility is increasingly an issue in western societies. 

These complex societal issues are overlaid with an even more complex moral and spiritual dimension. Many Christians understandably are wary of the embryo adoption topic. They fear encouraging the creation of human embryos outside of God-given natural means. 

All of this is to say that I believe Christians can adopt embryos in good conscience because IVF is a technology that will continue to be used by couples -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- regardless of your personal beliefs. And if embryos are created and frozen, human lives that could impact our world for good are awaiting families that can give them the best chance at life.

I empathize for my friends who don't believe embryo adoption should be promoted or encouraged. But as for me personally, I don't see any other way to raise awareness about our brothers and sisters whose lives have only just begun -- and whose lives will forever be on hold unless loving families, placing and adoptive, join arms to help them.