Daniel Herbster reporting
In the stem cell debate, you will often here proponents of unethical embryonic stem cell research say that we have hundreds of thousands of “leftover embryos” from IVF clinics and that the “only” thing to be done with them is to kill them for use in research. Besides the fact that the numbers of available embryos is greatly exaggerated (when you consider that most parents of frozen embryos want to keep them), the fact that human embryos can be and have been adopted by couples unable to have children on their own shows that death in the lab is not the only option for IVF embryos.
One organization seeking to publicize this exciting adoption option is Nightlight Christian Adoptions. I recently came across their website (http://www.embryoadoption.org/) and I am happy to share with you my interview with Ron Stoddart, the Executive Director of NCA.
Note: The above photo is President Bush, soon after vetoing an unethical embryonic stem cell research funding bill, holding a child who was adopted as an embryo.
DH: Ron, why should we care about what happens to “leftover” IVF embryos?
RS: It is a scientific fact that life begins at conception. The argument is over when life is deserving of protection. There are certainly those who would rather argue that embryos are not life – or are not persons – rather than admit that they just don’t want to afford them the same protection as life that is further developed. They have a fear that if we accord too much respect to embryos then it will be an opening to have Roe v. Wade overturned. I believe that all human life is sacred and deserving of protection. The fact that the embryos have been frozen does not change their nature and they deserve a chance at continued life.
DH: About how many unused embryos are there in this country, and how many of those are even available for research purposes?
RS: The best estimates are that there are about 500,000 embryos currently frozen in fertility clinics around the United States. The decision about the fate of the embryos rests with the family who created them (except in Louisiana where they are protected from destruction). Different surveys have attempted to estimate how many families would donate their embryos for research, so the estimate varies from 15,000 embryos and up. The reality is that the vast majority of families with stored embryos do not know what to do and are struggling with their decision. We are trying to encourage them to have the embryos implanted, if not in the family who created them then in an adoptive family.
DH: Should we respect the rights of human embryos the same way we do for adult human beings? What is the state of the law regarding the treatment of embryos?
RS: A person’s a person regardless how small. There is a lot of wisdom in these words from the WHO. My answer to the question is “yes.” The state of the law, except for Louisiana, is that embryos are treated with slightly more respect than property. Most of the conflicts have arisen when a couple is divorcing. In those cases, the courts have consistently sided with the spouse who wants to destroy the embryos rather then allowing the other spouse to implant them or donating them to another couple. Not much respect there.
DH: What is the mission of Nightlight Christian Adoptions? How long have you been in operation, and how did it get started?