Fundies, slaves, junkies, gays, and 'Flakes
Tonight before he finally dropped off making a clunk so loud you probably heard it and loosed your bowels in sudden fright Charlie cried for an hour and a half. So you will forgive me, perhaps, if I am not eloquent as I sputter in rage about this article on "embryo adoption" from the New York Times:
"We really felt like the Lord was calling us to try to give one of these embryos, these children, a chance to live," Ms. McClure said.
Mr. McClure, though, disliked the fertility business, which he felt created extra embryos that were often destroyed or aborted. He feared that paying fees to receive the embryos would be helping an industry "that I have real problems with."
He consulted a Southern Baptist church elder, who advised him, " 'If you want to free the slaves, sometimes you have to deal with the slave trader,' " Mr. McClure said.
Randall, Randall, Randall.
I don't even know how to begin. I'd blame Charlie for that but the very analogy is so overblown, so intentionally inflammatory, so breathtakingly...well, wrong that even had he not perforated my eardrum with his scalded-cat cries, I suspect I'd be feeling a delicate touch of nauseated disequilibrium.
Yeah, boy, those eight cells are pretty grievously oppressed there in the dark, chilly confines of their cryo tank hey, that's just like being abducted from your homeland, enduring an endless voyage on a floating Hell, and disembarking to find yourself owned. Why, lingering in insensate stasis is every bit as bad as being branded, mutilated, and hanged for disobedience. Yep, postponing telophase? That right there is a dream deferred, my friends, and therefore a dream denied.
If a frozen ball of human cells not visible to the naked eye and a thinking, feeling, fully potentiated person are even remotely equivalent, I'll eat Abe Lincoln's moldering stovepipe hat.
As an aside, I might take the McClures' claim of altruism a little more seriously if, instead of "adopting" those embryos themselves, they'd paid to have them transferred to an infertile couple who truly desire a child for his or her own sake, rather than shouldering what sounds suspiciously like white man's burden to win points with the Big Guy.
Now: why am I using scare quotes?
But for some conservative Christians, that is precisely the point.
I'd be curious to know what adoption advocates um, adoption-of-children advocates think of this. If the McClures above are any indication of the sentiment behind embryo "adoption," I'd imagine it would rankle. While people who've adopted babies generally express reverence and gratitude, knowing what a priceless gift they've been given, the people discussed in the article who "adopt" frozen embryos seem to think they're doing those sad forsaken embryos some kind of favor. It's a little too close to the way some people tell adoptive parents how noble they are for taking in that poor unfortunate child of a filthy junkie.
Okay, that was unfair of me. The "filthy junkie" part goes unsaid. Usually.
Stop the presses! Pregnancy with donated embryos can be risky! Sort of like, um, any other kind of pregnancy. Thank you, New York Times, for the breaking motherfucking news.
In my opinion, it's disingenuous to mourn the embryos that don't make it through the thaw, or those that don't implant and become a continuing pregnancy, without acknowledging the waste eggs that don't fertilize, embryos that don't implant, pregnancies that don't continue built into even unassisted conception. (Disingenuous, that is, unless they're your embryos, in which case I'll hand you the Kleenex and pat your shoulder clumsily but with love.) Thanks to diligent work and a few blinding strokes of genius, science has been able to improve on nature's pregnancy rates, which hover around 25% for fertile couples in any given month. A 35% pregnancy rate isn't a risk; it's a triumph.
Those embryos that proved unviable: were they "just [children] at an earlier stage of development" if they were chromosomally incapable of ever increasing beyond six or seven days' growth? Or of ever living outside the womb?
What about those that were normal but didn't, for whatever reason, implant? What if those embryos had found a more hospitable uterus than Julie McClure's? Would they have grown into fully developed children? Given the conservative aspirations toward a so-called "culture of life," can we say, if they were normal, that Julie McClure killed them?
These are philosophical questions that trouble greater minds than mine. Right now my own mind is fit for little more than doggedly counting aloud as I measure formula to make sure Charlie's next bottle isn't served chunky style, requiring a fork and a set of lobster crackers. But I do know where I stand on this issue. I do know that my failed embryos weren't people, no matter how hard the Christian right tries to convince me they were. If they were people, they'd be here now. If they were children, I'd have a houseful.
"Mostly Christian." Mostly. Hmmm. I would like to know which other denominations are represented. I asked Paul what he thought. He said in a doubtful tone, "Well, Christians...um...and then maybe Episcopalians..."
Now I can hear you thinking, But this doesn't sound entirely unreasonable. I mean, really, if you consider...
Wait! Stop thinking! Time for a field trip! Fun with Google: snowflakes embryo adoption.
Not entirely unreasonable. Mmmm-hm. Now how come it costs prospective parents more to, ah, rescue unborn children with Snowflakes at least $6800 than it does to receive donated embryos simply the cost of an FET plus legal fees? It seems that the additional cost pays to vet the prospective parents to make sure they're not, you know, fruity.
You know, I wish I had a clutch of embryos in the freezer so I could box 'em up and send 'em off to the lesbians right now. The only stipulation would be that any lesbian who conceived boy/girl twins would be legally obligated to name them Bob and Angie Deacon.
I like to think I am tough but fair. Just ask Charlie, who is so grounded after tonight's histrionics.
And this kind of discrimination, this unapologetically religious mission is being subsidized by the United States government (also known as you and me, my friend, you and heathen me):
I can only hope that the American Fertility Association is using their grant money to continue to fight the good fight on behalf of gay sperm donors.
And to wrap things up, we have a photo op, complete with using children to advance a political agenda. If Charlie's screaming earlier didn't cause you to evacuate your bowels in fear, maybe this will:
It certainly scares the shit out of me.
A reader sent mail suggesting I mention these alternatives for those who'd like to donate or receive donated embryos:
It is unfortunate that Snowflakes, with its religious bent, gets all the press, because there are other organizations out there that do embryo donation (or even embryo adoption), that don’t charge such outrageous fees or require that families go through so many hoops. If you want to make a difference in this area, one way to do it is to mention alternatives to Snowflakes I wish the NY Times article had done so. Here are some of the alternatives:
- Donate/Receive anonymously through your own clinic or to another clinic that accepts outside embryos (Cooper Center is one). The downside/upside depending on your perspective is that donors/recipients know nothing about each other and have no way of contacting one another should there ever be a need (medical or psychological) in the future. Additionally, if there are multiple straws (12 embies divided into 3 or 4 straws each), they may be divided up to multiple families. Often the donors aren’t even allowed to find out if the embies they donated resulted in a pregnancy or not.
- Donate to/Receive from a different agency. Agencies often will allow a full continuum of openness from totally closed (like the IVF clinics) to totally open (where you’ve met and know each other’s names, addresses, phone numbers) to everything in between (contact, but only through the agency). Among agencies that do embryo donation/adoption are:
- Theresa Erickson is a lawyer who runs Conceptual Options and she treats it more like a legal transaction/property transfer than an adoption. Of course it's so much more than a "property transfer," but for legal purposes, that treatment gives both parties the legal protection given the current state of the law. (There isn't really anything specific to embryo donation/adoption on the books YET.) Unfortunately, the waiting list at Conceptual Options is really long. I think they have about 25 couples/singles hoping to get chosen by a donor at the moment. Many on the waiting list have been on the waiting list for a year or more and have not been selected. The cost of the legal fees is generally about $2000 for the recipient family.
- For those wanting more of a religious affiliation but who are concerned about the costs of Snowflakes, there is Embryos Alive. They do not require a home study, but do require more information from donors including certification of medical health; copies of health, life, and homeowners' insurance; copies of driving records; etc. The cost of the agency fees (including legal paperwork) is generally about $3000-3500 for the recipient family. Due to a recent wave of donations, the waiting list is not that long (although, as is true with Conceptual Options, since the donors pick, it really doesn't matter how long you are on the list; it's more a matter of how much your profile appeals to the donors).
- Miracles Waiting is coming out soon (hopefully July) this will be a resource center for both donors and potential recipients. I believe it will include a bulletin board to facilitate matching among donors/recipients.
Thank you to the kind reader who took the time to compile this list.