November 15, 2010

Unused frozen embryos are frozen life.



Last night, during our family prayer, my 15-year-old son raised a topic that he read in the WCR entitled "Vatican official blasts Nobel Prize selection," referring to the selection of British scientist Robert Edwards, as a Nobel Prize winner for the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF). My son cannot understand why there was so much controversy around this Nobel Prize.

My son and my 13-year old daughter were conceived through in vitro fertilization. When they were old enough to understand, we told them how we prayed to have a baby for a long time and that we left our comfortable life in the Philippines to seek fertility treatment in North America.

After many unsuccessful fertility procedures, our physician in Manila advised us to seek treatment in North America. In God's perfect timing, he answered our prayers. God blessed us with the miracles that they both are. Our children know how precious they are to us but most especially, how wonderful God is.

My husband's and my decision to go for an IVF procedure was well thought out and much prayed about. For close to 10 years, we went through the physical and emotional pain of childlessness and fertility treatments. When the option of IVF was offered to us, we prayed about it and sought the advice of our close spiritual advisers and our priest.

In the end, it was a Spirit-led decision. We knew that God offered us a chance at bringing life into this world. We knew there was a possibility of several embryos resulting from the procedure but we were determined to protect these embryos.


I believe God used our son's innocent question so that we, as a family, can share our feelings about IVF and be re-assured of God's love for us. My husband and I wanted them to feel that they were not a result of an "evil" act.

We assured them that the "evil" with IVF is not in the potential of life that it offers to childless couples but in the destruction of embryos and the use of technology that contravenes God's laws.

In the article, Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said "without Edwards there wouldn't be a market for oocytes (immature egg cells), without Edwards there wouldn't be freezers full of embryos waiting to be transferred in utero or, more likely, to be used for research or to die abandoned and forgotten by everyone."

IVF has opened the door to many immoral acts. But to say the procedure itself is evil is akin to saying the technology of organ transplant is evil because it has opened up organ markets in poor countries where the impoverished sell their organs to dying patients in the rich world.

Catholic teaching declares that IVF is immoral because it separates the procreative purpose of the marriage from its unitive purpose. I believe I speak for other couples who went for IVF with the intent of bringing life into this world, that when we went through the procedure, we were united at a level higher than the physical - we were one at the spiritual level.

The love we had for each other was not diminished because reproductive technology helped us bring children into this world.

After the birth of my daughter, my physician advised me against having another baby. Another pregnancy would be too high risk for me as I almost lost my life after childbirth.

We had six embryos left in the clinic. Destroying them and donating them for stem cell research were never options for us. We believe in the sanctity of life and our embryos had to be protected.

Again, through prayer and discernment, the Holy Spirit led us to do the Godly thing - we donated our remaining embryos to another childless couple.

I am not here to question the teaching of the Catholic Church. I am writing to shed light on the good that can come out of IVF. I speak on behalf of those who underwent IVF but are afraid to open up for fear of being judged and called sinners.


Something beautiful can come out of IVF but this does not imply I am an advocate for IVF.

What I do advocate is the protection of the frozen embryos. There is little support for parents who have frozen embryos left in IVF clinics. Many couples I meet through the "reunions" of IVF families organized by the clinic do not know that a frozen embryo is a life suspended, that donating their embryos for stem cell research is the farthest thing from a noble act and that destroying embryos is destroying life.

A lot of education is needed. I do not know of any support given to parents with frozen embryos. Donating the embryos is a difficult but Godly option. Leading them to this option needs support and encouragement.

We Christians value the sanctity of life and we pray for the end of abortion, suicide and euthanasia. But we also need to pray for the protection of these embryos and for the enlightenment of their parents.

I hope opponents of IVF, who I support in their battle against the use of the technology for purposes other than procreation (such as sex selection, genetic engineering, etc.), would support and pray for the parents who have yet to decide what to do with their excess embryos from the IVF procedure.

The power to change the tide of embryo destruction and embryo stem cell research lies in the hands of the parents.

My sincere hope is I have given a broader understanding of the challenges IVF parents face. I also hope my story will touch someone who is deciding what to do with their frozen embryos.