The Gospel Coalition

What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption

A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.

A growing Christian response to this issue is the life-affirming answer of embryo adoption.

If you haven’t heard of embryo adoption, you’re not alone. Even though thousands of children in the United States could immediately benefit from this act of love, many people—Christians included—remain unaware of this adoptive need.

Because embryo adoption can be confusing, here are six answers to common questions.

1. What is embryo adoption?

Embryo adoption is a way to care for children who, for lack of a better phrase, are “left over” and kept in a cryogenic state following an in-vitro fertilization cycle. Through embryo adoption, an adopting mother gives these children a chance at birth by allowing their embryonic form to be thawed and transferred to her uterus. If one or more implant, the mother then carries and births the child (or children) though 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 fertilizatio (IVF)?

No. In many ways, it’s 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 that it needs a womb to continue developing the way God intended babies to grow.

3. How many embryonic babies exist in cryopreservation?

In the United States alone, a projected 700,000 children exist as frozen embryos. Of these, an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 are available to be adopted. That number grows every week. These statistics reflect two pressing needs: A movement of families who are willing to adopt and an awareness of the life-affirming options available to parents who already have remaining embryos.

4. Is embryo adoption really adoption?

Because the U.S. government doesn’t agree with the Bible’s claim that life begins at fertilization, embryo adoption isn’t considered legal adoption in America. The government only sees human embryos as cells, and so treats embryo adoption as a mere transfer of property. As such, many fertility clinics prefer “embryo donation.”

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Biblically informed Christians, however, shouldn’t shy away from using life-honoring terms. Just as Jesus was adopted by Joseph in a preborn state (not received as a donation from God), Christians should honor life by using theologically accurate language.

5. 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 husbands and wives. Although infertility is often a catalyst leading couples to adopt, adoption should be lauded as a gospel-reflecting option for all families who follow Christ. The church has much work to do in elevating adoption above the cultural stigma of being a second-rate option to traditional pregnancy.

6. How can I care for frozen children?

There are four main ways you can help:

  • 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 the church on behalf of these frozen lives. Share embryo adoption articles 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 Christians support international missionaries in prayer, we 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 that allows it, you can seek other ways to financially support the cause.
  • Adopt. The most powerful way to care for these tiniest of children is to personally open a womb and a home to them. A great place to start is to check out the website of the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

When God Became an Embryo

Jesus didn’t leave his throne for a manager, at least not directly. He first left his throne nine months earlier for a womb.

How much grander is the story of the incarnation when we realize the Son of God went from ruling the universe to becoming the smallest, most dependent, most microscopic form of human life. The God who authored a world that can’t be measured, humbled himself into a form that can’t be seen.

And this same God who became a human embryo to save sinners would have his church stand up for the many human embryos regularly discarded or frozen indefinitely. Consider how you can expand your pro-life passion toward the littlest lives by championing the cause of embryo adoption.

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