Any medical intervention to enable infertile couples to bear children, including fertility drugs, donor insemination, transfer of fertilized egg from one woman to another, and a variety of "surrogacy" situations in which the woman bearing the child may not have provided the egg. (See SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD)
The embryo may be the result of any combination of donor sperm and donor ovum. With developing technologies have come confusing ethical and moral problems, and most state laws have not yet caught up. When a fetus is the product of an egg donated to a woman and of the woman's husband's sperm, should she have to formally adopt the child at birth? And if a woman's own egg and her husband's sperm are implanted in another woman, should she then have to adopt her own genetic child? Another dilemma occurs when an in vitro fertilization results in multiple pregnancies, and the woman decides which of the fetuses needs to be "reduced" surgically within the uterus.
Doctors have also been able to freeze embryos, and the morality of what should be done with the unused embryos is hotly debated. Many questions arise. For example, could the embryos be used in a totally unrelated couple? Do the genetic parents "own" the embryo and all rights to it? What if the two genetic parents have different wishes? Should children conceived of such technology (at least when one of the raising parents is not a genetic parent) be considered "adopted"? Do the psychological and social issues of adoption apply to these children? The issues of prepayment for sperm or eggs-or embryos-raise questions comparable to those related to surrogate motherhood and to the so-called black market adoptions.
There are many unanswered questions and as technology advances even further, it is likely that the ethical issues will become even more difficult to resolve.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, "Egg Heads (In Vitro Fertilization)," The Human Life Review 106, no. 4 (Fall 1998).
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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