- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Mark Borden gummed a Tweety Bird teething toy as his mother described with trembling voice how she and her husband adopted the 9-month-old boy and his twin brother, Luke.

"We went through everything you could imagine — medical, psychological, paternal and background evaluations. We even submitted autobiographies with pictures of ourselves to the genetic family. They chose us, then submitted all the same information, and we chose them, just like a traditional adoption," Lucinda Borden said.

But there is nothing traditional about the Borden family or their adoption of the twins.

Mrs. Borden and her husband, John, of Fontana, Calif., tried unsuccessfully for five years to have children before they adopted six embryos among them the tiny budding lives that would become Mark and Luke — from an in-vitro fertilization clinic that deemed the embryos "in excess of clinical use."

The genetic family that produced the embryos, 10 in all, had already had doctors implant four in the woman's womb, resulting in triplets.

The Bordens have come to Capitol Hill to tell their story today before a House subcommittee and are prepared for their twins to become the poster boys for opponents of embryonic stem-cell research.

"It's a little scary, but if even one genetic family with extra embryos puts their embryos up for adoption because of this whole thing, it's worth it to me," Mrs. Borden said just before the couple sat down with reporters from CNN.

There are more than 188,000 frozen embryos in clinics nationwide, many of which are being separated from their stem cells, killing the embryos. The cells are then used in research that some scientists say could lead to cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.

Abortion foes and religious conservatives, on the other hand, argue the embryos are human life and should not be destroyed for any reason, even for medical research.

Caught in the middle is President Bush, who has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether the National Institutes of Health will be allowed to fund scientists who do research using embryonic stem cells. He and his top aides have studied the issue and said months ago a decision would be out in early summer. But most observers now expect Mr. Bush to delay action until after he meets next week with Pope John Paul II in Rome.

But as the president delays, the issue is about to explode on Capitol Hill. The Bordens will appear today before a House subcommittee that oversees NIH, along with other families who have adopted frozen embryos, including Marlene and John Strege and daughter Hannah of Falbrook, Calif. Biochemists and doctors will also testify.

Supporters of embryonic stem-cell research will argue that the embryos now destroyed to harvest stem cells are "surplus," in that they are provided by parents who have produced extra embryos for in-vitro fertilization. Because the unused embryos are destroyed according to the parents' wishes, researchers say, they are not really taking the life of an unborn child.

"Our goal is that the genetic families out there understand that there is a third option," Mrs. Borden said. "They've been told that they can either destroy their embryos or donate them to research that will destroy them too. We want them to know that there are families just like us who want to adopt them and give them life."

At a news conference yesterday outside the House, Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said in vitro clinics should be thought of as "frozen orphanages."

Mr. Smith has introduced the Responsible Stem Cell Research Act of 2001 to increase funding for research that does not require destruction of embryos. Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, is sponsoring a bill to change the law so federal funds can be used for research that requires the destruction of embryos.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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