Embryo 'Adoption' Joins Two Families

ByABC News
August 21, 2002, 4:51 PM

Aug. 22 -- After Bob and Susanne Gray had one child with the help of fertility drugs and then twins by in vitro fertilization, they were amazed when Susanne became pregnant with a fourth child by an old-fashioned accident.

They were thrilled with the birth of their daughter Ali, but it presented them with an unexpected problem: what to do with the 23 fertilized embryos left over from their fertility treatment.

Devout Christians, the Georgia couple believed that life begins at conception and that each of the 23 embryos, which were being preserved in cold storage, was a human being. If all were used in fertility treatments, the chances were that at least three or four would lead to successful pregnancies. Theoretically, all 23 could become babies.

The Grays felt their family was complete and did not want to use the leftover embryos to try to have even more children. But they also were not prepared to accept two of the usual options for surplus embryos: donating them to research or destroying them.

"To us there's really no difference between letting that happen and aborting a pregnancy," Bob Gray told Primetime.

The couple also did not like the third option: anonymous donation to a fertility clinic so the embryos could help another couple have children. "We wanted to give them the best possible life and the best possible future," Susanne Gray said. "And that meant finding the right family for them."

Choosing the Right Family

The right family for the Grays meant a Christian, college-educated couple who had been married for at least seven years. On the Internet, the Grays found the Christian-run Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program, which promises to help genetic parents find a suitable home for their "pre-born children," giving them "some control over their destiny."

The program, run by California-based Nightlight Christian Adoptions, is one of a growing number of private programs that treat embryo donation like the adoption of a child. Embryo adoption has no legal standing and is not recognized by courts, and only five states have any legal protection for the recipients of donated embryos. However, embryo adoption has attracted the attention of Congress, which passed a measure earmarking nearly $1 million to boost public awareness of embryo adoption.