The number of leftover frozen embryos remaining after IVF increases year after year. The creators of these embryos (which may contain genetic material of the parents, third-party donors or in combination), extended tremendous emotional and financial resources in order to obtain the embryos, but have extra that they may not ever need (IVF typically results in more than one viable embryo).
Some may choose destroy the embryos, some may donate them for medical research and some may keep them frozen in perpetuity. A small percentage are distributed to third parties. There are two prevailing attitudes about third-party embryo distribution (it is not legal to sell embryos).
“Embryo donation” is the term used by those who view these embryos as genetic material. “Embryo adoption” is the term used by fundamentalist Christian programs and they consider these embryos as people, or in effect, babies abandoned by their parents. Currently, the latter view dominates and the great majority of federal grants are provided to these Christian programs, with federal funding in large part denied to non-Christian oriented agencies.
By recognizing embryos as full persons, embryo adoption agencies politicize the process by underscoring the right-wing Republican assertion that life begins at conception. So far they have won favor through the current administration.
Let’s hope that as more non traditional families (single, same sex) are accepted and respected, the politics can be taken out embryo donation – a process which can help so many deserving prospective parents.