Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 24 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Francis de Sales
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Frozen Embryo Population in the US Hits 1 Million Mark

Paul Hocksenar-cc

John Burger - published on 06/18/15

Cryopreservation numbers up, and problems are multiplying

Angel and Jeff Watts were blessed with the birth of twins four years ago. Two years after that, they were once again doubly blessed. 

But with with two sets of twins, and with Angel turning 45, the Tennessee couple felt that that was enough. It wasn’t a question of finding some method to control her fertility, as it might be with other couples who come to a point where they feel their "family is complete." It involved the matter of the Watts’ six other children, waiting in the wings. Most people would call them frozen embryos. They were the "leftover" ones, from the same in vitro procedure that produced the Watts’s twins. 

The Watts’s story is emblematic of a national trend: decades after the first test tube babies, with an assisted fertility industry well established in the United States, the population of frozen embryos—whether stored away for possible future use or largely forgotten—is now estimated at about a million. That’s way up from 400,000 in 2002 and 612,000 in 2011, as the New York Times reported:


Since the first American “test tube” baby was born in 1981, in vitro fertilization, at a cost of $12,000 or more per cycle, has grown to account for more than 1.5 percent of all United States births.

Such embryos exist because during IVF procedures, couples and their doctors typically have a number of eggs fertilized, just in case the first tries at implanting the embryos do not lead to live births. Couples sometimes stop paying the storage fees for the extra embryos, leaving the problem in the hands of IVF clinics or cryopreservation facilities. Some have them thawed and disposed of, while others donate them for research. Some try to offer the nascent human lives to agencies that facilitate their adoption by other couples.

Others find creative ways to let them die, as the Times described:


Some people, saying they were troubled to be destroying a potential child, have created their own disposal ceremony — or, in a procedure known as compassionate transfer, have had a doctor place the embryos in the womb of the woman who made them, at a time of the month when she will not become pregnant. 

The Wattses tried to adopt out the six unused embryos through an agency but were unsucessful. They ended up posting on Facebook about them, and they found a younger couple who were willing to take them.

“We have 6 good quality frozen six-day-old embryos to donate to an amazing family who wants a large family,” the Facebook post read. “We prefer someone who has been married several years in a steady loving relationship and strong Christian background, and who does not already have kids, but wants a boat load.”

The variety of solutions cropping up, the lack of regulations, and the changing laws and mores on marriage and family may lead to even greater problems in the realm of assisted reproduction. Fears have already been expressed that embryo adoptions, anonymous sperm donation and the like could open the possibility that two biologically-related siblings, placed in different families, could eventually meet, fall in love and marry one another.

And will parents always be permitted to place their "spare" embryos with the types of families they consider best for children? The National Embryo Donation Center in Tennessee, which is endorsed by the Christian Medical Association, the Times article says, places embryos only with heterosexual couples married at least three years. But same-sex couples will no doubt find that discriminatory. Embryo Donation International, on the other hand, is a Florida company that works with singles and couples who are either homosexual or heterosexual. The agency requires no home study.

“We’re not here to save embryos; we’re here to build families,” said Dr. Craig Sweet, its medical director. 

Though the Church has been clear in its teaching against reproductive technologies like IVF, there is still an open debate on the morality of "embryo rescue." 

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
4
Philip Kosloski
When did Christians start praying the Hail Mary?
5
PHILIP RIVERS
Cerith Gardiner
Quarterback Philip Rivers' retirement announcement reflects his s...
6
CONSOLE
Philip Kosloski
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
7
EMOTIONAL
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.