Surrogacy and using donor embryos to create a family is surprisingly controversial by some in both the adoption and infertility community. But don’t all potential parents have an obligation to explore the full range of alternative family building options available to them? These options may not be for everyone but opening our minds to the different alternatives and exploring them without bias is the best way to make a decision as to what may be right for your family, one size doesn’t always fit all.
Embryo placement or Embryo adoption as it is sometimes called is when families with unused frozen embryo’s donate them to another family. These placements can be made through an open arrangement where both parties know each other and remain in contact (after all they will both have genetic siblings) or closed where the donors wish to remain anonymous. This is not technically an adoption which is one of the many reasons people in the adoption community are opposed to this. In most states Embryo donation and placement is considered a tissue donation and governed by the FDA, there is no termination of parental rights and everything is done through contracts. Once the contracts are signed they are legally binding when you give birth to a child born from embryo donation that child is automatically considered legally yours. No adoption required. This type of placement is wonderful for healthy women who want to experience pregnancy and control the intrauterine environment.
Most surrogates are gestational carriers, meaning that they have no genetic link to the child they are carrying. Either a couple’s embryo is implanted in the surrogate or one of the intended parents is genetically linked to the child and a donor is used for the additional genetic material. Surrogacy opponents feel that surrogacy exploits vulnerable women, but most surrogates are not coerced into carrying a child for someone else. In fact most surrogates are carefully screened and it is usually required that they have already had a child of their own so they understand what is involved. Yes, some are lured by money they can earn being a surrogate and the potential that income would create for their own family, but is this wrong? In many countries this is a legitimate way for women to help raise their family’s circumstances and it also raises their status within the family because they are now seen as money earners. There are even some women who become surrogates for purely altruistic reasons. No matter what the reason a women decides to become a surrogate this is a legitimate way of family building and intended parents should know about this alternative. The reality is that some intended parents really can’t see themselves parenting a child who is not genetically linked to them or in the case of many gay men this is their only alternative if they would like to have a genetic child.
So while surrogacy and embryo placement may be controversial they are both just as legitimate a way of family building as adoption or using IVF to conceive your own biological child. The difference is that many families don’t know about these options or are only given biased opinions and negative feedback when these options are discussed. It is time to open the doors and allow intended parents to explore all of their options in regard to family building so that they can make the best choice for their family.