Embryo Adoption?

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I was at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) conference last week and there, amid all legal publishing companies and on-line search services in the Exhibitor’s Hall, was a table for something called Embryo Connection, which works with the National Embryo Donation Center. They were giving out these nice little calculator/writing pad things which, according to the stamp on the back of mine, were funded by a federal grant. My tax dollars at work? (I suppose a little calculator and pad combination is better than some federal spending.)I’m still not exactly sure what the Embryo Connection was doing at the AALS. Its main purpose is to promote the adoption of embryos. The embryos they are thinking about were created for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Most couples turn out not to need all the embryos created during IVF and so the embryos remain in cold storage. Many are undoubtedly discarded eventually. Every now and then you see a case where the couple that created the embryos is splitting up and they fight over the embryos–usually because one person wants to use them and the other wants to dispose of them. Almost always the person favoring destruction of the embryos prevails–courts typically rely on some sort of right not to procreate.

The idea of the folks who were at the AALS (and they are not alone–there are other similar centers) is that these embryos should be adopted by a willing married couple. (I’m doubtful they’d go for a happily married Massachusetts lesbian couple, but it doesn’t actually say.)

Now it would be one thing if the Embryo Donation Center, true to its name, were concerned strictly with embryo donation. But the”Donation”Center routinely refers to the process as”adoption”as well and, consistent with that model, requires a home study for recipient couples.

Adoption, of course, requires an adoptee–a child to be adopted. And that is where the peril lies. In the worldview of the Embryo Connection, these frozen embryos are children and the egg and sperm donors are already parents. The implications of this linguistic slide from”donation”to”adoption”for women’s reproductive autonomy is pretty obvious.

Julie Shapiro (cross-posted at Related Topics)

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