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The funding certainly “made a difference in terms of people’s awareness about this family-building option,” and yet it serves a relatively small population, she said. “We have too many people who don’t know enough about” infertility, and “we would like to see more funding in general” for that.

Viable option

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 7.3 million women of childbearing age, or nearly 12 percent, have “impaired fecundity.” Male infertility is a significant issue, too, as about 17 percent of infertility is linked to the “male factor,” Ms. Collura said.

An embryo donation and adoption program is “a proven strategy” to help couples achieve parenthood, said Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director at the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tenn., which has won $3.5 million in federal grants.

It also opens a door for couples with extra embryos who have moral objections to destroying them, either by discarding them or giving them to researchers, said Dr. Keenan, adding that the center has 150 “sets” of frozen embryos in storage, with up to 15 embryos in each set, waiting for adoptive parents.

Between 2004 and 2009 alone, about 1,900 infants were born from the adoption process in the U.S., said Dr. Reg Finger, director of the Embryo Donation Services Center, which also was created with federal grant funding.

Embryo adoption “gave me a 40 percent chance to have a baby, after being told there was a 1 [percent] to 2 percent chance of ever having a child,” said Leslie Warren, an Alabama social services worker whose 15-month-old son is one of nearly 400 babies born at the center.

If there’s no awareness program, “who is going to advocate for these embryos?” asked Jennifer Wright, a Phoenix-area mother who writes a “Snowflake Family” blog about her and her husband’s 1-year-old son.

Adopting parents might be able to find out about embryo adoption, but the genetic parents might continue to think that their “only choices” are to use their embryos or destroy them, Mrs. Wright said.

“If you are not involved” in an infertility situation, “you have no idea of the need” for embryo adoption, said Marti Bailey, who has twins from embryo adoption and talked about the process with adoption lawyers, counselors, clinics and adoption agencies when she worked with the donation center several years ago.

Stem-cell research

The federal government has funded embryo-adoption awareness since 2002 in response to the furor over stem-cell research, which destroys the embryos in the process of culling them for the stem cells.

President Bush steadfastly vetoed legislation opening up federal funding for research on new stem-cell lines and instead touted embryo adoption as a choice for couples with “extra” frozen embryos.

“The children here today remind us that there is no such thing as a spare embryo,” Mr. Bush said at a 2005 White House event with “snowflake” children and their families.

“These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts,” he said pointedly.

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