Catching Flack over Embryo Adoption
Catching Flack over Embryo Adoption

Last month, I was talking with a well-respected adoption professional about what we were advising people interested in adopting in this changing environment. I told her I really haven’t changed my counsel much. All in all, the options that are open to people remain the same: domestic public (foster care) adoption, domestic birth mother placement adoption, and international adoption (albeit with a changing array of country options). Depending on the couple or person, I also include using donated embryos as an option to consider. From her reaction, you would have thought I supported kicking puppies.

This woman is deeply committed to children, and I respect her work. She’s one that walks the talk. From her perspective, including embryo adoption as an option to consider was abandoning children that already exist in favor of creating new kids, kids unsullied by messy conceptions or early life experiences. I think she thought I was selling out. I don’t agree.

In fairness, this woman works primarily with people who have already decided on adoption, while I consult with those folks, as well as those in the midst of infertility treatment. I strongly believe I have an obligation to explore the full range of alternative family building options—the costs, the success rate, the waiting times, who should consider them, what the research shows, how kids and families do later in life, etc. People come to me to get an educated unbiased review of their options, not to tell them what to do, and using donated embryos is an option. It isn’t for everyone, but it may be the preferred option for a healthy woman whose top priority is the pregnancy and nursing experience, and who want to control the intrauterine environment as much as possible.

I was a little surprised by the vehemence of this woman’s reaction, and from some comments I received after the Jan. 28 Creating a Family show on embryo adoption, I realized she’s not alone. Using donor embryos to create a family is surprisingly controversial by some in both the adoption and infertility community. Unfortunately, this issue has become ensnared in the battle of the pros (life vs. choice), and the controversy has been fueled in part by the Bush administration giving out millions in federal grants to support embryo adoption. It is likely to become even more controversial now that the Octuplet Mom has said that she transferred six frozen embryos because 1) she didn’t know about the option of donating them to another couple, and 2) she was horrified that anyone could do that with “their children”. (Hint for Ms. Suleman, listen to the May 28, 2008 Creating a Family show where I interviewed professionals and parents who decided that this was indeed the best and most selfless option for their excess frozen embryos because they knew they could not adequately parent more children and didn’t want to dispose of them or donate them for research.)

For the record, I do worry about the children that already are born and need a family. My greatest desire is that each and every one of them finds a family. But the “one size fits all” model does not work for family building, and the Creating a Family radio show, website, and consulting practice are not intended to promote one type of family building to the exclusion of others. Some people don’t really want to parent a child not genetically related to them. These people need information and resources on the next steps in infertility treatment or on making peace with living child-free. Other people like the symmetry of a family that needs a child adopting a child that needs a family. Adoption is the perfect path for them, and they need information on which type of adoption is best for them and how to go about it. Still others can accept the lack of genetic connection, but desperately want the pregnancy experience or at least the control over this time in their child’s life. For them, using donor gametes (egg or sperm) or donor embryos is a good option. I am not only committed to finding a family for every child, but also to helping each family find their child.

I know I sound like a broken record, but no one path to creating a family is right for everyone. I even had someone email me that they were morally opposed to pregnancy?!? I assume she meant something along the lines that she was opposed to conceiving a child when there are children already in this world in need of parents, but it just goes to show you that there is no such thing as the perfect way to become a parent. So, for those folks who are disappointed in my choice of show topics or my inclusion of all alternative family building options on the CreatingaFamily site or in my consulting practice, I say “too bad”. Exploring and providing resources and education on all family building options is not selling out. Most of my audience and consulting clients are simply trying to find a way to do something that comes so easy to most people—they just want to become a parent. They need support and information, not judgment and disagreement.

P.S. It is surprisingly hard to find good unbiased resources on creating a family through donor embryos/embryo adoption. I have spent a lot of time researching this topic, and I truly think CreatingaFamily has the best collection of resources on this topic available anywhere. And I didn’t receive a penny of federal grant money to do it. (Dadgummit!!)


Image credit: Brian Smith