Embryo ‘Adoption’ Is Growing, but It’s Getting Tangled in the Abortion Debate


The Department of Health and Human Services has run a grant program, called the Embryo Awareness Adoption Program, since 2002. (Funding was temporarily halted in 2003, before resuming in 2004.) The program is relatively small, averaging about $1 million in funding every year since 2013, an amount that has stayed steady in President Trump’s budget proposals, even as his administration has proposed deep funding cuts for some health programs, such as teenage pregnancy prevention and H.I.V./AIDS research.

To date, all the grant recipients in the H.H.S. grant program except two — Boston I.V.F., which received a one-year grant in 2011, and Resolve, which received funding from 2007 to 2009 — are affiliated with anti-abortion or Christian organizations.

This includes the three 2017 grant recipients: the National Center for Donor Conception (N.C.D.C.), the National Registry for Adoption, and Nightlight Christian Adoptions — an umbrella organization for Snowflake Embryo Adoption. Two of the recipients, N.C.D.C. and Nightlight, were renewed for 2018. They were the only ones given grants through the program this year.

“The embryo adoption program is a competitive grant program and awards are made to the eligible applicants who have the best applications that meet the criteria,” Robert Scholle, the project lead of the frozen embryo adoption public awareness campaign run by H.H.S., said in an email.

Ms. Tyson of Snowflake Embryo Adoption said her clients skewed heavily Christian, and weren’t always as open to single parents, gay couples or atheists. “It’s usually within those realms that I’m going to have a limited ability to match,” Ms. Tyson said.

Similar to the traditional adoption model, those donating embryos are often involved in selecting who receives them. So when Ms. Tyson does get a client who identifies as atheist or L.G.B.T., she usually suggests other embryo transfer programs that aren’t religiously affiliated.

Dr. Craig Sweet runs one such program, Embryo Donation International. In addition to his clinic, he and Ms. Tyson usually work together to match nontraditional families with embryos.


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