Embryo Adoption Offers Couples Another Way to Make a Family

By Ramirez, Marc | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 10, 2015 | Go to article overview

Embryo Adoption Offers Couples Another Way to Make a Family


Ramirez, Marc, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


DALLAS - First they made a commitment to serve their country, and then they made a commitment to each other.

But when Christy and Mike Trabun, who married in the fall of 2005, had difficulty conceiving a child, they pursued a commitment of a different kind: They "adopted" embryos donated by another couple that had been produced through in-vitro fertilization.

"We had never heard of anything like that," said Ms. Trabun, who learned about the possibility on a radio show. "We thought, 'That's a really cool way to go about building a family.'"

It's been 37 years since the first baby conceived through in- vitro fertilization was born. Pregnancies achieved through assisted reproductive technologies now account for 1.5 percent of U.S. births.

But couples who conceive through IVF often end up with more embryos than they need. The unused embryos are put in frozen storage, and parents pay regular fees - an average of $600 annually - to keep them viable.

Some couples will use them to try to have more children later, but those who decide their families are big enough face another choice: What to do with the remaining embryos?

Across the country, an estimated 600,000-plus unused embryos rest in liquid nitrogen at places like Dallas-Fort Worth Fertility Associates - some released by parents for "adoption" or still in the possession of those who can't bear the thought of discarding or giving them away.

"It's tough," said Dallas attorney David Cole, whose practice, called Little Flower, focuses on adoptions and assisted productive technologies. "For some couples, it's just difficult to donate them to someone else. But on the other hand, it's very difficult for some to discard them."

Sometimes, unused embryos can spark legal battles, as in a well- publicized case this year between actress Sofia Vergara and ex- fianc Nick Loeb, who is suing the Modern Family star to keep her from destroying frozen embryos the couple created during their relationship.

For wannabe parents Mr. Trabun, 50, and wife Ms. Trabun, 34, who had met in the U.S. Marine Corps, the decision was easy. They'd already considered traditional adoption but found the idea of taking on already-created embryos appealing.

While the term "adoption" is largely used to make the concept relatable to prospective parents, the legal term in Texas and elsewhere is "embryo donation," which skirts the red tape tied to traditional adoption.

"It's truly a hybrid between IVF and traditional adoption," said Dr. Karen Lee, of Dallas-Fort Worth Fertility Associates.

The Trabuns had known people whose efforts to be parents - including IVF, traditional adoption and fostering - had ended in heartbreak. But Mr. Trabun, who already had two children from a previous marriage, wanted to give Ms. Trabun a chance to experience pregnancy.

"Her dream was to be a wife and mom," said Mr. Trabun, a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. "That was the biggest thing for me."

With the help of a national program called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption, which has facilitated such placements since 1997, the Trabuns took on seven embryos donated by a couple from the Pacific Northwest. …

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