What Should We Do with Our Frozen Embryos?

Dear Dr. Moore,

I know you don’t believe in in vitro fertilization, but my wife and I found it was a good solution to our infertility problem. We created multiple embryos, and carried two to term. We cannot afford any other children, so another round of pregnancies is not an option. Our quiver’s full. My conscience is bothering me a little, though, since we banked a number of other fertilized embryos, just in case the first round didn’t take. Do we have any responsibility for these embryos?

Sincerely, A Stressed Dad

Dear Stressed Dad,

Your quiver’s fuller than you think.

You’re right that there are complex ethical questions regarding IVF, and I’d be happy to have that discussion later. Once IVF has been done, though, the issues are simple, even if the consequences are complex.

In a Christian vision of reality there is no such thing as an “almost person,” which is what we think with the abstraction of “fertilized embryos.” Someone is either a human person, and therefore my neighbor, or not. You do not have “frozen embryos.” You have children, frozen in this cruelly clinical world of suspended animation.

It is one thing to decide you can’t afford to have children, before you conceive children, just as it is one thing to decide you can’t afford to marry, before you marry. You’re married though, and you’ve conceived children. You have an obligation to them. The one who does not care for his own household is, the Apostle Paul says, “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

This doesn’t mean your game-plan is easy. There’s a cross to take up here. The path from frozen storage to birth is difficult, whether through bearing those children or making an adoption plan for them into loving families. But these are not things; these are persons, worthy of love and respect and sacrifice.

I’d advise you to meet with some respected spiritual advisers, to look at your situation and come up with a map to take responsibility for your children. The first step is to start thinking of them that way, not as your “embryos” or a project to be managed, but as your children, your neighbors, and the “least of these,” who bear the image of our Lord Jesus.

Your conscience might seem to be a nuisance to you; it does to all of us sometimes. But a nagging conscience can be a sign of grace. It might be that what you are hearing is a happy foretaste of obedience to Christ, as you hear his voice saying, “I was frozen and you remembered me.”

Reprinted with permission from the author; originally posted on Moore to the Point.

4 Replies to “What Should We Do with Our Frozen Embryos?”

  1. Someone I know told me that someone they know just adopted a frozen embryo! I don’t know details) I’ve never heard of that before. Beautiful!

  2. This is a very direct and Godly answer to this question. I appreciate your honesty. I understand that most married Christian couples would love to receive children. They are indeed a blessing from God. However, we are not to go to any length to ‘get’ them. I know of a couple who had 4 frozen embryos, 2 were implanted at different times, then they got divorced. What to do with these ‘frozen babies” now? I do not have answers but if you are praying for children, also pray for grace when you do not receive them. It is God’s will and we need to pray “Thy will be done.”
    God bless.

  3. Hello all,

    First of all, embryo adoption is possible, and recommended. It works much the same as regular adoption, but with the anticipation of a pregnancy. Secondly, I would like to briefly address the statement that Margaret makes, “we are not to go to any length to ‘get’ them.” That is quite a loose statement. What is “any length”? Is timing ovulation “any length”? Is taking any sort of drug to lower prolactin levels in order to get pregnant “any length?” See my point? My wife and I are Christians, and we did IVF, and we did so without having to freeze or “destroy” (hate that word) any embryos. We simply only fertilized no more than two eggs. I understand the moral implications of freezing/thawing, on many levels, but there are different ways to do it.
    Secondly, “it is God’s will” when one gets pneumonia, but we’d be fools not to take an antibiotic if we do get pneumonia. God provides means. We must use them with a Bible in one hand and a prayer on our lips, discerning which of the avenues, if any, are according to God’s word.
    Thirdly, in the example you gave, where the couple that froze embryos got divorced, the biggest problem there is that the parents of the those children divorced. That’s a bigger problem than freezing embryos (considering that frozen embryos can be adopted out, thawed and transferred to another woman’s uterus).
    Those are my thoughts, being as brief as possible. I’ve written much more about this in the past and would be happy to have that conversation with you.
    Blessings,
    Henk

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