This opens up a huge Pandora’s Box in the world of third party reproduction. We know that the USA has over 400,000 embryos in the freezer. Some of them are long forgotten and abandoned taking up space while others are in preparation to be used for other cycles.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states we should not transfer abandoned embryos into a waiting uterus – however, technically once embryos are transferred from one facility to another facility, are they not then considered donated?
It’s complicated… and bringing the concept of transferring unused embryos from outside countries into the U.S., only adds to the complications.
There’s the whole infectious disease testing – sure the embryos are tested in the country from which they come from however, they aren’t tested in FDA-approved labs, so this makes it questionable to transfer them to a clinic, much less a uterus (or waiting Intended Parent) here in the U.S.
Then there’s the fact that these embryos would have very limited medical histories on either the parents or the egg donors. Sometimes the embryos are created in countries where egg donation is strictly anonymous. This would make it really hard for recipients to learn anything concerning genetic history or characteristics of the children they would be bringing into the world.
What if any of these embryos brought over resulted in children who had some sort of disease? The USA is notorious for being sue happy – how would we deal with the potential liability if this situation arose? Who would be liable and potentially sued? The clinic that created them? Or the clinic that accepted them? Would these embryos have to come with an “As is” rider, like a used car?
And then there’s the whole person-hood argument – are the abandoned embryos really abandoned children?
One argument I read stated that we could imagine that these embryos could be viewed as potential children from a third world country that were orphaned or abandoned after a horrible catastrophe of some sort and placed in a very overcrowded facility. What if the facility didn’t have enough room to care for them and asked the USA to accept these poor children and help them find happy homes, healthy homes, intended parents who wanted nothing more than to have a family.
The question is what if we had the ability to do that? My first thought would be but what if we didn’t have the permission from the parents to adopt them? What if the government from the third world country and the USA stepped in and made it okay – would we have a moral obligation to take these children (or embryos)?
See how complicated this is?
What about the kids?
My other concern about this kind of thing always circles back – “What about the kids.” These are potential children and what are we going to tell them? I am thinking that most intended parents regardless of where they come from around the globe aren’t going to be comfortable with saying to their children – “We got you from a clinic that got you from a batch of embryos that were abandoned.” There is a huge yuck factor and rightly so. We walk such a delicate line as it is with embryo donation and the story we tell those kids and their potential questions as in “Why was I left in the freezer when my other siblings were chosen first?” Of course, another side of this might be that we tell those children ‘you came to us for a reason, just like each family is created, we don’t question the how you came to us, we just relish in the fact that you did.’ Had the Intended Parents not stepped in in the first place, those babies might never have been created. So you see, there are many sides to it.
Still, our bottom line tends to be answering to the kids. They didn’t sign up to be brought into the world this way. I think we owe it to them or their potential selves to really think about the actions we are possibly taking.
What’s the saying? “Just because you have technology doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to use it irresponsibly.”
So what do you all say – should the USA bring in abandoned embryos from foreign countries? Would you accept embryos that were abandoned from a foreign country if you knew nothing about the parents who abandoned them in the first place? Or do you think that none of this matters, that if an embryo is unused and can find a home and potential life with parents who want that child, then it’s the right thing to do?
We’d love to hear your input!