By Alex Temblador
For many couples, making a family is not always easy. It might involve looking for sperm donors or egg donors, multiple IVF treatments, or waiting to be placed with a child through adoption. Still, it’s nice to know that families who may have to work harder to create their families have multiple options to do just that. One of the options toward creating a family is not talked about often, but nevertheless, might be the right path for you or you and your partner. It’s called “Embryo Adoption.”
What is embryo adoption?
Embryo adoption begins when a couple has gone through the process of IVF. Their sperm and eggs have been mixed to create an embryo that will then be placed in a woman so she can get pregnant. The extra embryos made in the IVF process are frozen and stored for the couple to use in the future. However, once the couple (or single individual) has decided that they do not want to have more children by means of these embryos, oftentimes, there are leftover embryos. So what happens to them? Many people donate those extra embryos so that other people can “adopt” these embryos as their own and use them to have a child.
Is it really adoption?
Technically, embryo adoption does not fall under the same laws as adoption. It actually falls under contract or ownership law.
How did embryo adoption come about?
With the rise of IVF treatments in the U.S., many people found themselves asking the question: what do we do with our leftover embryos? Should they discard them? Give them to research? Store them indefinitely?
Storing embryos in a lab costs a fee each year. Some people didn’t feel comfortable discarding or giving their embryos to research due to a variety of reasons, such as religious beliefs.
Donating them to a person who wanted to be a parent? That seemed like a good idea.
Why do people choose embryo adoption?
The reasons vary from couple to couple. Sometimes embryo adoption is the easiest, cost efficient, or quickest way for a couple to create a family. For some couples, they are interested in adopting but still want the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Whatever the reason, it’s a path that has brought many families together.
How exactly are embryos donated and how do prospective parents adopt them?
People can go about donating their embryos in a variety of ways. They can donate them through a fertility clinic or an agency. Often, couples choose to go with agencies in which they can vet the prospective parents that they choose to donate their embryo to.
Many people who donate their embryos do see it as adoption, notes marketing manager Mark Mellinger for the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. Many of the donors the NEDC represents want to go through an “open” adoption. This may involve meeting the prospective parents or having a relationship in some form with the children born from the embryo adoption.
It’s also not unheard of of people adopting embryos from friends, families, or over the internet without the help of an agency or fertility clinic.
Click here for a list of companies that you can go through to donate your embryos or adopt an embryo.
What are the costs?
Many companies waive fees for couples choosing to donate their embryos for adoption, but for the most part, it doesn’t cost to donate one’s embryos. For instance, the National Embryo Donation Center can store the frozen embryos for free until prospective parents are found.
Those wanting to adopt an embryo must pay fees. The NEDC’s fees for the entire process of an embryo adoption is over $7,000.
Others estimate that the fees can range from $6,000-$17,500.
Once the embryos have been adopted, who has legal rights?
If done correctly, the person(s) that adopt the embryo that results in a child is the legal parent to that child. Those donating the embryo should sign legal paperwork relinquishing their legal rights to that embryo. Be sure to go through a well vetted company or organization and have a lawyer look through any contract you are asked to sign.
For some same-sex couples, a second parent or stepparent adoption might still be needed once the child of an embryo adoption is born.
Controversy surrounding embryo adoption
Though embryo adoption occurs in the United States, it’s somewhat controversial due to its “new” nature. There’s no federal or state laws that cover embryo adoption, making it somewhat an unsettled journey toward creating a family.
Because of the lack of specific laws concerning this type of “adoption,” embryos that are adopted sometimes have to be referred to as property.
Additionally, the option of embryo adoption means that many children in the foster care system or waiting to be adopted from private adoption facilities in the U.S. or abroad could be overlooked in favor of embryo adoption.
Photo Credit: Gabi Menashe