I’ve been following some legislation in Georgia recently. It’s gone through a number of revisions. You can read about them in the earlier posts. Interestingly, you can trace the origins of this legislation back to the furor over the octuplets. The unease about the octuplets seems to have provided a vehicle for groups more generally concerned about ART.
The new version of the bill, one passed by the Georgia state senate, is described here. Provision limiting sale of sperm and eggs are gone, as are restrictions on the number of embryos that can be implanted transferred and who can utilized ART. The bill now provides that embryos can only be created for the treatment of human infertility. The question of what qualifies as “infertility”–an important question when you consider people who wish to parent singly as well as same-sex couples, is left rather fuzzy.
Apparently there is also a separate bill, passed out of the Georgia House of Representatives, that promotes embryo adoption. This is the first I’ve heard of this second bill, but you can find some discussion of embryo adoption here.
A few days back, while I was discussion some restrictive legislation pending in Georgia, I promised to discuss embryo adoption. I had actually come across a recent news piece on the topic which I’d been meaning to come back to. I got side-tracked by that little avalanche of legislation around unmarried couple adoption, but now I’m making good on my promise.
So here’s the background. Some people assert that as soon as the sperm fertilizes the egg, what you’ve got is a child. For them, eight cell blastocysts are no different from my thirteen year old. This is the view reflected in the legislation pending in Georgia.
If you think the embryo is a child, then what do you do with “extras?” I think we can all agree that you cannot simply destroy children. (Before anyone yells at me, please note that I’m just working with that assumption for a moment, not advocating for it.) I guess it might be okay to keep them frozen for a while. (That’s implied in the Georgia story, though I wonder if anyone has asked the legislator proposing the bill around this.) But you probably won’t want to keep it frozen forever and so eventually you have to transfer the embryo into a woman. Continue reading
I was at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) conference last week and there, amid all legal publishing companies and on-line search services in the Exhibitor’s Hall, was a table for something called Embryo Connection, which works with the National Embryo Donation Center. They were giving out these nice little calculator/writing pad things which, according to the stamp on the back of mine, were funded by a federal grant. My tax dollars at work? (I suppose a little calculator and pad combination is better than some federal spending.)
I’m still not exactly sure what the Embryo Connection was doing at the AALS. Its main purpose is to promote the adoption of embryos. The embryos they are thinking about were created for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Most couples turn out not to need all the embryos created during IVF and so the embryos remain in cold storage. Many are undoubtedly discarded eventually. Every now and then you see a case where the couple that created the embryos is splitting up and they fight over the embryos–usually because one person wants to use them and the other wants to dispose of them. Almost always the person favoring destruction of the embryos prevails–courts typically rely on some sort of right not to procreate.
The idea of the folks who were at the AALS (and they are not alone–there are other similar centers) is that these embryos should be adopted by a willing married couple. (I’m doubtful they’d go for a happily married Massachusetts lesbian couple, but it doesn’t actually say.)
Now it would be one thing if the Embryo Donation Center, true to its name, were concerned strictly with embryo donation. But the “Donation” Center routinely refers to the process as “adoption” as well and, consistent with that model, requires a home study for recipient couples.
Adoption, of course, requires an adoptee–a child to be adopted. And that is where the peril lies. In the worldview of the Embryo Connection, these frozen embryos are children and the egg and sperm donors are already parents. The implications of this linguistic slide from “donation” to “adoption” for women’s reproductive autonomy is pretty obvious.