As mentioned in my brief overview on embryo adoption, there is a range of ways that one can “participate” in embryo adoption. Not all methods award the proper dignity and respect to each embryo or even to each marital relationship. As of today there are at least nine self-proclaimed “embryo adoption agencies” (here is a list of eight EA agencies; here’s one more agency). And there are over 500 fertility clinics nationwide that have some sort of embryo donation program (click here for a partial list by state). Just as regular domestic adoption agencies vary in their services provided, so too do all of these programs in their services provided.
Unfortunately, since embryo adoption is not recognized as a legal form of adoption under federal law, there are no laws in place to regulate embryo adoption practices. I think it’s worthwhile, then, to define what an ideal Catholic embryo adoption agency would look like. Though this discussion is hypothetical at this point, it should provide some measure with which to compare existing agencies.
Please note, the absolute best scenario would be for the genetic parents to complete the embryo transfers themselves with their own remaining embryos and care for them for the duration of embryos’ lives (be it moments or decades). However, I do realize this scenario cannot always be achieved either due to mental, physical, or financial reasons. The decision to place embryos for adoption should not be (and I doubt it ever is) a decision lightly made.
I would like to propose several criteria for a hypothetical Catholic embryo adoption agency. First, adoptive parents should complete an adoption home study at least in accordance with their home state guidelines. Home studies are required for domestic and international adoption; they should likewise be required for embryo adoption. As part of the home study process, adoptive parents should receive tips on how to share with their child(ren) their unique origin.
Second, all fees associated with the embryo adoption AND frozen embryo transfer should be kept to a minimum and be as affordable as possible. I’ve seen it argued that the placing parents (aka genetic parents) should “foot the bill”. Honestly, I don’t think this is a reasonable request. This is not expected of traditional forms of adoption, why should it be for embryo adoption? It goes without saying that genetic parents should not be reimbursed in any way for expenses they undertook in the creation of the embryos or in storage of the embryos up until they are relinquished to the care of the adoptive parents.
Third, all adoption legalese should be patterned as closely as possible off of current domestic adoption legalese. If one day our federal government wakes up and decides to recognize the embryo as a person and to recognize embryo adoption as a legal form of adoption, then there’d be fewer questions on the validity of the contract. I’m sure they’d be grandfathered in if such a situation were to happen, but you get the idea…
Fourth, there must be strict mandates in place. Absolutely no surrogates. Absolutely no selective reduction. Thaw only the embryos you are healthfully prepared to carry to term, regardless of the statistics. (Typically anywhere from one to three embryos are frozen in a straw; you cannot thaw a partial straw.) Do not refreeze thawed embryos. No genetic testing of any sort.
However, my thoughts continually are evolving on the formation of a Catholic embryo adoption agency. What do you think? Is there anything I have omitted? Or should edit?