Home Christian News For Infertile Couples, the Fate of Frozen Embryos Is Deeply Personal

For Infertile Couples, the Fate of Frozen Embryos Is Deeply Personal

frozen embryos
(Photo by Janko Ferlič/Unsplash/Creative Commons)

(RNS) — When Ericka Andersen and her husband started infertility treatment a decade ago, they were hoping for one successful pregnancy.

Andersen, a freelance writer and author who lives in Indianapolis, had married in her early 30s and wanted to start a family right away. When she did not become pregnant after a couple of years, she sought out help and eventually decided to try in vitro fertilization — better known as IVF — in which a woman’s fertilized eggs grow into embryos in a lab and then are transferred to her uterus.

“You are thinking, I just want one of these to work,” she said. “Because for some people it never works.”

After two successful transfers, the couple now has two children, born three years apart. They also have 9 embryos in storage. Andersen said she’s left dealing with “the devastation of extra embryos.”

“I have deep anguish at the lives that I haven’t carried, the siblings of my children that they will never meet,” she wrote in a recent essay about her experience. “The babies I will never know, whose eyes I will not see, whose bodies I will not rock, whose smiles I will not recognize.”

The fate of frozen embryos has been the subject of fierce debate in recent weeks after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos are “extra-uterine children” and protected by the state’s wrongful death law.

The court’s majority decision alone would have made headlines but was made more controversial by Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker’s concurring opinion, which quoted the Bible and held that embryos “cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.”

After the ruling, almost all IVF procedures in Alabama were put on pause as fertility clinics tried to sort out the implications of the ruling and the state Legislature considers a proposed measure that would shield IVF clinics from liability if “damage or death of an embryo” occurs during treatment.

An attempt to fast-track a federal bill to protect IVF was blocked last week.

The politicking since the Alabama decision has overshadowed the deeply personal side of IVF treatment. Patients, often deeply attached emotionally to their excess embryos, can be torn about what to do with them.

Before starting IVF, Andersen said, she prayed she and her husband would end up with only the embryos they needed. Every month when the storage fees for their frozen embryos come due, she starts thinking about their futures.

Donating the embryos to another couple “is the only real option for me,” she said. “I’m not going to destroy them. And I am not going to give them to science because I think they are human beings. They deserve a chance.”