Alabama Supreme Court determines that embryos are children

Posted On February 22nd, 2024

What is a frozen embryo, exactly? With in vitro fertilization (IVF), the embryologist combines the sperm and eggs to create fertilized eggs or embryos. It takes 3-5 days to create an embryo that is ready to freeze for later use (it can also be genetically tested at this point, to see if it is chromosomally normal). This “blastocyst” contains 70-100 cells: some will develop into fetal tissue and some into the placenta.

There are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos in the US as a result of IVF. During an IVF “cycle,” hormones are administered to stimulate the maturation of more than one egg (which is typical in a normal menstrual cycle). This is to increase the chances of having a healthy embryo, as not all eggs will fertilize. The more eggs there are, the better chances of having a healthy embryo to transfer, and the better the chances of a successful pregnancy. Many times, there are leftover embryos (not always of the highest quality) that remain frozen in perpetuity.

In Alabama, these embryos, these masses of 100 cells each, with no hearts, brains, bones, or blood, are considered persons. This enforcement of this proclamation is unclear. Taken to its literal extreme, it can be terrifying to hopeful parents.

In order to create a pregnancy, an embryo must be thawed and then transferred to the intended mother’s (or surrogate’s) uterus, which as been prepared with hormones. What if the embryo does not survive the thaw: would this be considered a wrongful death?


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Are IVF Babies Different?

Posted On October 11th, 2021

I’m going to split the question into two parts: one is easy to answer and one’s a little harder. 

So first, are they better? Are they superhuman? The answer to that is absolutely NO. 

No one does IVF to create a superhuman. People who use IVF do it as a last resort after many unsuccessful attempts to have children the natural way. So no one’s taking superhuman sperm and supermodel Ivy League eggs and putting them together to create some superhuman. That just doesn’t happen. The reason we want to procreate is to pass on our own DNA. That’s behind the sex drive and everything that makes us go. And so in IVF, when people want to have their own babies, they want their own zygotes. They want their own DNA. They don’t want some outside superhuman DNA. They want kids who are like them. And even when people look for donors, they look for donors who look like them. That’s the main search criterion for most recipients: to find a donor who looks like them because they want kids who are like them. They don’t want some superhuman. That’s the realm of science fiction when it comes to IVF that people were afraid of: that these super creatures would be created in the lab.

Now the other thing is: are IVF kids not as good? Are they defective in some way? Is there some problem with IVF children? Well, we know in general that IVF can have a risk of premature birth and low birth weight,


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Instagram Live with Mama Glow

Posted On May 3rd, 2021

Here is the link to Kathy Benardo’s IG live interview with Mama Glow. We discussed many issues regarding third party reproduction.


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Covid-19 and IVF

Posted On April 14th, 2020

Everything is pretty much suspended for now. I explain in this week’s video.


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Couple sues fertility clinic after sperm mix-up

Posted On September 13th, 2019

I used to reassure worried intended parents that gamete mix-ups and losses were exceedingly rare and not something to be stressed over [there are so many more common disruptions with assisted reproduction cases to be more legitimately on guard about]. But we have seen, much to my and many other people’s dismay and shock, more than just one isolated instance recently of an IVF lab making a critical mistake in labeling and/or transfer of eggs/sperm/embryos, along with several large-scale cases of embryos being destroyed due to technological failure. These devastating situations are deserving of further scrutiny and evaluation of safeguards and protocols to determine what measures need to be implemented in order to eradicate them from happening.

Interesting to note that racial disparity is often the cause for suspicion with intended parents in a sperm, egg or embryo mix-up case. I am concerned about Caucasian gametes which may be inadvertently substituted for other Caucasian gametes, with less of a visual indicator as a result. Lab policies and redundancies are strict and careful across the board – these catastrophic results should just not be happening with this level of frequency.


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Fresh vs. Frozen Donor Eggs: How to Choose

Posted On July 27th, 2019

Are frozen donor eggs just as good as fresh? I get this question all the time. Actually, there is no right answer: it all depends on your own particular needs and desires.

Before you begin looking for a donor (fresh or frozen), my advice is to prioritize these major factors:

Cost: are your funds very limited, or do you have some flexibility?

Time: are you on a deadline (for insurance, your clinic’s age cut off, or some other reason)?

Selection: are you looking for a particular ethnicity, education level, or some other specific quality?

One of these three factors must be number one, and one must be number three. They cannot all be number one!

First, you should have a general understanding of the difference between fresh and frozen eggs. Think of fresh eggs as a product and frozen eggs as a process.

Frozen egg banks recruit, screen and cycle donors “on speculation,” then freeze the eggs in batches of six or so (two or three batches can result from a single retrieval). Since the screening and cycling is already completed, frozen eggs are the faster option, available to ship to your clinic right away to thaw, fertilize and transfer whenever you want.

Frozen egg banks compensate donors on the lower end of the scale, starting around $5,000. Because the retrieval results are divided and donors are paid less, frozen eggs are less expensive than fresh.


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What is IVF? IVF Mythbusting

Posted On May 13th, 2019

Sensational stories such as “Octomom” make a misleading impression of IVF on the general public. Kathy Benardo explains the basics of in vitro fertilization and how it is normally employed by infertile patients. Assisted Reproduction technology is actually highly regulated.


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Age Limits for IVF: the ASRM Guidelines

Posted On May 6th, 2019

A recent article in Fertility and Sterility publishes the result of a survey that measures public attitudes toward an age limit for the use of assisted reproduction.


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NYT: Embryo ‘Adoption’ Is Growing, but It’s Getting Tangled in the Abortion Debate

Posted On February 18th, 2019

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.


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