Just when you thought that the anti-abortion/’pro-life’ crusade had lost a little bit of its spunk, Evangelical Christians figured out a way to bring it back to life, expanding its reach to the stem cell research debate. Evangelicals have created a program they cloyingly call, Snowflake ("named to reflect the frozen uniqueness of each embryo") which matches willing conservative Christian couples with unused embryos offered by fertility clinics. The couples ‘adopt’ the embryo, implant it in the woman and go on to produce wholesome Christian babies.
Of course, embryo adoption, which I prefer to call embryo political football, turns the entire purpose of fertility treatment on its head. In the normal situation, an infertile couple turns to a clinic, identifies an egg donor, harvests her eggs, fertilizes them and implants them into the female partner resulting hopefully in a child for the couple who otherwise could not have any. Embryo adoption doesn’t seem designed to help infertile Evangelical couples have children. It seems designed to score political points in the war against stem cell research. Here’s what an embryo recipient said in today’s New York Times article on the Snowflake program:
Asa McClure (baby), ‘former embryo’ & former
‘slave’ (credit: Peter Yates/NYT)
"We really felt like the Lord was calling us to try to give one of
these embryos, these children, a chance to live," Ms. McClure said.
Ms. McClure does not appear to be infertile (she had three previous children before embryo adoption). She doesn’t even say she underwent the procedure primarily to have a child. She tells us that she had a child for purely theological/political reasons. After the Terry Schiavo madness, now we’re dragging our babies into the political maelstrom. It’s utter madness.
Mr. McClure at first had "real problems" paying a fertility clinic in return for receiving the embryo, since he of course disapproved of such clinics discarding embryos (which to his mind were living babies) for purposes of medical research:
[But] he consulted a Southern Baptist church elder, who advised him, " ‘If
you want to free the slaves, sometimes you have to deal with the slave
trader,’ " Mr. McClure said.
Again, instead of expressing a desire to make a baby and nurture it, McClure and his evangelical cohorts are scoring theological points in a battle against ‘slavery’ and science.
Embryo adoption has been brought to you by Nightlight Children’s Adoption in 1997. The website claims that the group helps infertile Christian couples have children. I have no doubt it does this. But it clearly stretches the rules to allow the ‘right’ fertile couples into the program (presumably as long as they swear fealty to Stoddardt’s political agenda).
from the clutches
Ron Stoddart, the adoption agency’s director created Snowflake. He too explains its primary purpose not in the traditional terms of helping couples to have children. Instead he says:
"The best way to increase awareness of embryo adoption is controversy,"
he said. "The embryonic stem cell research debate has done more to
publicize this than anything. Nobody’s going to put pictures of the
president kissing a child in your paper just to publicize an adoption
This is pure abuse of children (and embryos!) to advance an anti-science, anti-human agenda. By anti-human, I mean that Stoddard and the evangelicals are using little cuddly babies to try to turn back medical science in its efforts to improve health and cure disease. Just imagine Mr. McClure, Mrs. McClure or Mr. Stoddart developing Parkinson’s, diabetes, spinal cord injury or any number of illnesses for which cures could be found using embryonic stem cells. Would they at that point concede that their embryo adoption sideshow stymied efforts to cure the very disease that might end their lives prematurely?
Another article on Nightlight in the Orange County Register points out another potentially horrible repercussion of embryo adoption if its premise that embryos are babies is taken literally:
"If you start to develop this conceptualization
of frozen embryos as human beings, that they’re worthy of the effort to
go through this whole adoption process, then you open the door for the
charge of child abuse or child neglect, and then that would open up the
door for some groups or organizations to take the frozen embryos from
the patients," said Robert Brzyski, past president of the Society for Assisted-Reproductive Technology.
"I think that would be extremely traumatic for the individuals and
not consistent with the values that Americans have traditionally held
regarding the relationship between parents and children."
Not to mention that it would virtually destroy the entire field of medical fertility treatment. Infertile couples who’ve paid for a donor’s eggs could be told by the government or law enforcement that unless they use the embryos to create a child they have no right to them. At Bush’s recent baby circus display after Congress’ vote to overturn his stem cell policy, he said (read my post about this event) implicitly just as much:
"Every embryo is unique and genetically
complete, like every other human being. And each of us started out our
life this way. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but
In other words, scientists who use embryos for research purposes AND infertile couples who permit their unused embryos to be dontated for such research are "exploiting" them as "raw material." It is but a very small step from here to legistlative proposals that would criminalize such actions. How long will it take to get ot this point? The Times article notes that Stoddardt, an adoption attorney by profession, has forwarded a legislative proposal on embryo adoption to California state legislators. What goodies does he have in it for all those of us who’ve used infertility treatment and stored embryos with our clinics?
What I’d like to know is why the Austin fertility clinic mentioned in this article allowed its discarded embryos to be used for this purpose. I would urge anyone undergoing fertility treatment to specify that they allow unused embryos to be used for medical research purposes only, but not for embryo adoption. Any clinic that cooperates with Nightlight should be ridden out of town and the medical fertility community on a rail. It’s just plain unseemly for a fertility clinic, which supposedly is helping the infertile have children, to allow its embryos to be used as part of this baby circus.