Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00

Embryo Donations: "Snowflake Babies"

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Embryo donations, commonly known as “snowflake babies” or embryo adoptions, are an increasingly common way to facilitate pregnancy.  Embryo donations often involve the donation of frozen embryos remaining from another couple’s previous in vitro fertilization efforts without compensation.  In most situations, the woman donating the embryos has previously had successful pregnancies and no longer needs to retain her frozen embryos.

Like with adoption, embryo donations can be anonymous or open.  With an open embryo donation, the parties’ identities and familial histories are known and the parties agree on any relationship the child might have with the donors.  Moreover, like with adoption or surrogacy, prospective parents may seek out donors through an attorney or through an adoption-agency’s pre-screened donor list.  In many situations, like with traditional adoptions, prospective parents must go through a home study.

One of the greatest advantages of embryo donations is the cost.  Embryo donations, on average, cost nearly half the cost of other forms of in vitro fertilization.  Additionally, many see embryo donations as a moral alternative to discarding frozen embryos or donating frozen embryos to stem cell research.

In most states, including California, embryo donations are regulated by property law.  In contrast, traditional adoption is regulated by state adoption laws.  Under property law, the donors sign a contract relinquishing their rights to the frozen embryos.  Under adoption laws, the birth parents release all parental rights to the child.  Some states have begun to move away from property law and towards adoption law for embryo donations.  For instance, in Georgia, in addition to relinquishing all rights to the frozen embryos under property law, biological parents of embryos must also release all parental rights to the baby.  California has not enacted specific laws regulating embryo donations.

As you read this, you probably wondered why children born through embryo donations are nicknamed “snowflake babies.”  The term “snowflake babies” evolved because each embryo is unique, like a snowflake, and each embryo is frozen, like a snowflake.

Embryo donations are increasing in popularity throughout the United States.  The laws regulating embryo donations are constantly evolving, and the embryo adoption process can be complicated.  An experienced attorney should be consulted to discuss your options.