July 1, 2022

Are Snowflake embryos donated or adopted?

With the support of the Bush administration, Christian groups in the US are cooperating with IVF clinics to arrange for frozen embryos to be given to childless couples. When President Bush announced that he would veto a bill allowing embryo research, he appeared surrounded by 20 families who had taken test-tube babies into their lives with the help of a program called Snowflakes.

Since only about 2% of an estimated 400,000 embryos frozen in IVF clinics are given to other couples, this is hardly a solution to the problem of what to do with the embryos. But because it shows dramatically that the embryo is really a child at an earlier stage of development, it has become a controversial procedure. Supporters of embryonic stem cell research — who want to use frozen embryos in their projects — and abortion rights activists are uneasy about calling it “adoption” because this word suggests that the embryo is a person. Their preferred term is “donation”, which suggests that the embryo is a commodity.

According to the New York Times, “the fertility industry and its supporters worry that the cuddly image of Snowflake babies could not only dampen enthusiasm for using embryos for research, but also lead to laws that make embryo donation the only option for excess embryos”. Many IVF parents have mixed feelings about adopting out their excess embryos. At the time of freezing, about 30% of couples say that they would donate them to another family, but after three years, two-thirds decide not to. It appears that they feel uncomfortable with the thought of someone else raising a child who is genetically theirs.