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Bioethics

“Concentration Cans”

I was out of the country when Georgia passed the nation’s first “embryo adoption bill”. I put embryo adoption in scare quotes because clearly this bill has little to do with the adoption of embryos. Rather it was a clever political move to capitalize on the visceral opposition to Michael Kamrava’s Octo-Mom creation. By piggybacking on the controversy created by Nadya Suleman and Kamrava, the Georgia legislature ended up passing a bill that has only one purpose and that is to appease their religious right constituency.

But as I mentioned, this is somewhat old news. What struck me though was a statement by Daniel Becker, the president of Georgia Right to Life. Becker, was quoted in lifenews.com as saying “Estimates are that over 40,000 cryo-preserved human embryos are abiding in concentration cans in our state…. This will allow them an opportunity to have a birthday.” Beyond being one of the most histrionic statements in recent memory, it is also offensive and moronic.

This bill creates more questions than it answers. Does Becker truly believe there are 40,000 families in Georgia that would adopt these embryos? Even if there were 40,000 families willing to adopt these embryos (which is completely preposterous), who is to say the owners of the embryos would agree to the adoption? Or perhaps by removing the property designation, has Georgia actually deprived the genetic contributors of these embryos of all rights to decide their disposition? Further, by extending parenthood status to these embryos, is the goal of Becker and his ilk to mandate the donation of all excess embryos? Or perhaps is it the first step towards prohibiting the creation of more than a single embryo per IVF attempt? Because once you confer parenthood status on an embryo, creation of more than one leads to the possibility that the excess may never be used. Would destroying these excess embryos or keeping them frozen forever be tantamount to homicide? Ultimately, any attempt to limit physicians to only aspirating a single follicle per cycle would effectively bring an end to IVF as the cost and medical risks to do multiple successive retrievals would be too great.

I cannot see how this bill will survive a constitutional challenge. Nevertheless it should give us all pause as it is a direct assault on our procreative liberties and a glimpse of the kind of challenges that will inevitably follow, all cloaked in sheep’s clothes. Finally, Becker ought to apologize for his insensitive analogy to the holocaust. Comparing a clump of 8 frozen cells to the horrors suffered by human beings in Nazi death camps is simply beyond the pale.

Discussion

2 comments for ““Concentration Cans””

  • HatCreekGal

    I agree that referring to the canisters containing frozen human embryos to ‘concentration cans’ is over the top. However, the way you have characterized the GA law is really outrageous. There really are 100s of thousands of human embryos in storage in the U.S.

    In the process of embryo adoption, the donor family really does have the opportunity to select the recipient family. In most of the clinic donation programs the donor is NOT given the opportunity to choose the recipient – the fertility doctor does – and the doctor can decide to sub-divide a donation [say of six embryos] giving 2 to one recipient and 2 to another and perhaps even 2 more to another! The donor never knowing which couple is having their children. Hummmmm, sounds to me like the adoption process [advocating open adoption] offers a better alternative to the donor, adopter and resulting child.

    Did you know that healthy children have been born from embryos that have been frozen for more than 10 years? Yes, it is true.

    The GA law allows recipient families of embryos, who have given birth to a child, the opportunity to have that adoption recognized in the court.

  • I think you misunderstood the point of my post…or I did not articulate it well enough. I am a huge proponent of embryo adoption. I have been assisting couples in embryo adoption arrangements for more than a decade.

    However, the Georgia statute has almost nothing to do with the adoption of excess embryos. Instead, it is a transparent attempt to radically change the legal landscape by conferring personhood status on the embryos. If the goal was simply to legalize embryo adoption, they could have easily done so without creating a special class of people (embryos created via IVF). I would have had no objection if the bill provided a uniform mechanism by which infertile couples could adopt embryos while providing some oversight. Yet that was not the goal of the Georgia legislature as reflected by Daniel Becker’s statements. Do you really believe that Georgia Right To Life is a proponent of unrestricted access to assisted reproductive technologies?

    By the way, embryo adoption was never prohibited in Georgia to begin with.

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