A Practical Way to Give God Glory By Caring for The Least of These
These are my twins, Abel and Belle. Developmentally, they’re both five years old. In actuality, they’re ten and-a-half. The reason for this disparity is that Abel and Belle were frozen in cryogenic preservation for several years before becoming our children. Their journey into our family occurred through an amazing process called Embryo Adoption.
If you haven’t heard of Embryo Adoption, you’re not alone. Even though an estimated 11,000 children in the United States could immediately benefit from this act of love, many people – Christians included – remain in the dark about this important adoptive need.
Because Embryo Adoption can be confusing, here are eight common questions regarding the process:
1) What is Embryo Adoption?
Embryo Adoption is a way to care for children who are literally frozen in cryopreservation following an In-Vitro Fertilization Cycle. Through Embryo Adoption, an adopting mother gives these smallest of children a chance at birth by allowing their embryonic form to be thawed and transferred to her uterus. If one or more implant in the uterine lining, the mother then carries and births the child (or children) although she is not genetically related to them. Embryo Adoption is often referred to as pre-birth adoption.
2) Isn’t Embryo Adoption the same thing as In-Vitro Fertilization?
No. In many ways, it is quite the opposite. In-Vitro Fertilization creates life as a form of reproductive technology. Embryo Adoption is a response to the fact that life has already been created and needs a womb to continue developing the way God intended babies to grow.
3) Is Embryo Adoption Biblical?
That question rests on another: “When does the Bible say life begins?” Scripture is very clear that life begins at fertilization.
If we believe the Bible that life begins at fertilization, we must see human embryos as real children. We can then rephrase the initial question as, “Is it Biblically acceptable that children be frozen in their developmental process?” The answer, of course, is no. Cryogenic freezing halts the natural, God-ordained, growth process of a child. Intentionally keeping a child in a cryogenic state due to the inconvenience of birth is not an acceptable option for the Church. The Church is called to care for those who are vulnerable, and no humans are more vulnerable than those frozen in embryonic development in need of a chance at birth.
4) How many embryonic babies exist?
In the United States alone, an estimated 700,000 children exist as frozen embryos. Of this figure, an estimated 11,000 are actively available to be adopted. That number grows every week. These statistics reflect two pressing needs:
A) A movement of families who are willing to adopt and
B) An awareness of the life-affirming options available for couples who already have remaining embryos on ice.
5) Is Embryo Adoption really adoption?
Because the US government does not agree with the Bible’s claim that life begins at fertilization, Embryo Adoption is not considered legal adoption in America. The government only sees human embryos as cells and so treats Embryo Adoption as a mere transfer of property, along the same line as the donation of a car. As such, many fertility clinics use the vernacular, “embryo donation.”
However, Biblically-informed Christians should not shy away from using life-honoring semantics. Just as Jesus was adopted by Joseph as an embryo (not received as a donation from God), Christians should honor life by using theologically-accurate language. Many Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family and The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention correctly use the phrase, “Embryo Adoption.”
6) Does Embryo Adoption encourage In-Vitro Fertilization?
No, but even if it did, that doesn’t change the necessary call for Christians to care for children who have already been created. Christians can stand for views on IVF, but cannot use children who already exist as chess pieces in the debate. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, faithfully deals with this subject in his blog post, Should Christians Adopt Embryos?
7) Isn’t Embryo Adoption just a fertility treatment?
No. This misconception stems from the same line of reasoning that says traditional adoption is only for infertile couples. Although infertility is often a catalyst which leads many couples to adopt, adoption should be lauded as a gospel-imitating option for all families who follow Jesus.
The number one reason Christians should support adoption is because we’ve been adopted by God. And God didn’t adopt us because he lacked other options to make a family (He can make children out of rocks if he wants). No, God pursued us through adoption out of love.
If we the Church want to love like Jesus, we must elevate adoption above its cultural stigma of being a second-rate option to traditional pregnancy. The entire church body (purposely made up of Christians who are single and married, fertile and infertile) must actively support adoption if we truly value the gospel and love the world.
8) How can I care for frozen children?
- Inform – Most people have never heard of embryo adoption. Those who have, often confuse it with IVF. Much adoption evangelism needs to take place inside and outside the church on behalf of these frozen lives. Share Embryo Adoption articles, such as this one, on social media. Talk with friends. Do research. Talk to your elders and your small group about ways your church can be involved in the mission field that is Embryo Adoption.
- Pray – Just as how Christians support international missionaries in prayer, the Church should also be intentional about lifting up adopting families. The same spiritual fervency that characterizes Christians’ support of Crisis Pregnancy Centers should motivate us to talk to our Father about the needs of these tiny embryonic lives.
- Give – Embryo Adoption, like traditional adoption, is a financial investment that requires sacrifice for many families. If you have a heart for Embryo Adoption, but don’t currently feel led to adopt or are not in a situation which allows it, know there are many other ways to support the cause. Try searching for “Embryo Adoption” on www.gofundme.com or google “Embryo Adoption blog” and see what you find!
- Adopt/Place for Adoption – Obviously, the most powerful way to care for these tiniest of children is to personally open up a womb and a home to them. If you feel God calling your family on this exciting adventure (or if you have remaining frozen embryos you wish to place for adoption), I’d advise you to check out the website of the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, TN, Snowflakes Embryo Adoption (California), or Embryo Adoption Services of Cedar Park (Washington state). My wife Jennifer and I adopted our children from the NEDC. We’d love to answer any questions you have. Feel free to leave those in the comments below.
Specific to our family’s story, Abel and Belle were conceived by another couple using IVF in 2006. After the cycle, Abel, Belle, and many of their genetic siblings were released to the adoptive services of the National Embryo Donation Center.
Abel and Belle remained frozen as embryos from 2006 to 2010. We are incredibly thankful that God enlightened our eyes to Embryo Adoption and brought Abel and Belle into our family.