Here is the link and the story.
Decision 2008: Stem cell debate
Embryo adoption grows as option
Feds promote it as family alternative
Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News
FALMOUTH -- At a routine ultrasound eight months into Rachelle Rife's first pregnancy, a technician turned the monitor to her and her husband, Troy.
"Here's an ear," the technician said, pointing to the developing baby. "Whose is it?"
The Rifes looked at each other and laughed.
"Neither one," said Rachelle, who later gave birth to Greyson Kent, who has no genetic relation to her or Troy.
Greyson was one of seven frozen embryos left over from another couple's in-vitro fertilization treatments. The couple allowed the Rifes, of Falmouth, east of Cadillac in northern Michigan, to adopt them.
"This is God's promise to us," said Troy. "This is our baby boy."
One of an estimated 314 "snowflake" babies in the United States, Greyson represents one of two divergent, but equally hope-filled possibilities for frozen embryos -- human life or medical breakthroughs through human embryonic stem cell research.
The federal government is promoting embryo donation as a family-building option, while some opponents of human embryonic stem cell research have embraced it as an alternative use for excess embryos.
Scientists in Michigan are barred from destroying embryos for research, which is the only way to create stem cell lines, but a state ballot proposal will give voters a chance to reverse that Nov. 4.
Scientists argue that unfettered access to embryonic stem cells, which are typically derived from 5- to 6-day-old frozen embryos, could do for health care what the Internet has done for global communication because they have the ability to transform into any type of cell scientists want to study. Because they can be turned into any type of cell, researchers hope to pinpoint genetic triggers for diseases such as cancer and diabetes and study potential treatments. Adult stem cells, by contrast, are found in a limited number of tissues and organs and can generally only replicate the type of cells from which they were derived.
Though the coalition opposing the ballot initiative has focused primarily on the ballot language, saying it goes too far, other opponents object to the research because of the potential life these embryos can create.
Advocates, however, say a few people choose this option and the miracle of life and embryonic stem cell research can co-exist.
"One does not in any way negate the other," said Marcia Baum, executive director of Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures. "There's enough (frozen embryos) for both."
For the Rifes, adopting the embryo that became Greyson had nothing to do with politics. It simply provided an opportunity they never thought they would have: giving birth and having genetic siblings available for more children.
"This," Rachelle said, "is the biggest miracle of our life."
'So out of the ordinary'
The Rifes learned about embryo adoption at a seminar put on by Bethany Christian Services, a Grand Rapids-based national adoption agency and a leader in embryo adoption. Troy, 42, was intrigued, but Rachelle, 29, needed to be convinced.
"It seemed so new and so out of the ordinary," she said.
When she realized she could experience all the emotions that come with pregnancy and childbirth, at a fraction of the cost of in-vitro fertilization, Rachelle decided to pursue it.
Over five months, the Rifes were interviewed and counseled by social workers and had a home study. They received detailed health profiles of potential embryo donors and were able to review the eye and hair color, body type, hair texture, ethnicities and even the likes and dislikes of the donor couples.
This was a nice option, Troy said, but they had other priorities.
"We wanted to make sure they were healthy," he said.
The Rifes picked a couple who had similar physical traits and were willing to communicate with them and the child over the years.
In July 2007, they traveled to the National Embryo Donation Center, a private organization inKnoxville, Tenn., for the embryo transfer.
Doctors implanted three embryos in Rachelle's womb, but the transfer didn't take.
"We were devastated," Rachelle said.
They returned to Knoxville that September for another attempt. This time they achieved success using embryos from a couple that chose to remain anonymous.
'Not spare parts'
The world's first "snowflake baby," Hannah Strege was born with little fanfare in December 1998, a month after researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison created the first human embryonic stem cell line. Embryo adoption and stem cell research collided in 2006 at the White House, when President Bush vetoed a bill that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Standing behind Bush were 18 families that had adopted embryos.
"These boys and girls are not spare parts," Bush said. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research."
Exact figures are unavailable, but various federal studies suggest less than 1 percent of frozen embryos are adopted; and some couples do not want other people to raise their biological children.
Rachelle admits that at first she wasn't comfortable with the idea of giving birth to someone else's baby. But as she gave it more thought, she realized she and her husband consider each other family even though they are not genetically related.
"Over time you become one family," she said.
With more than 400,000 frozen embryos in clinics and tissue banks nationwide, the federal government has been promoting embryo adoption as an option for infertile couples.
Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $10.8 million in grants to organizations, most of them faith-based, to promote awareness of embryo adoption. The government has also allocated $216.4 million since 2002 to the study of human embryonic stem cell lines that were created before 2001, when Bush limited the number of lines.
Among the groups promoting awareness of embryo donation is RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, an advocacy group for infertile couples.
Unlike faith-based groups, RESOLVE believes couples with excess frozen embryos should be able to donate them for embryonic stem cell research.
But the organization also promotes embryo adoption, said Barbara Collura, RESOLVE executive director.
"It is one way out of many, many ways a couple could build a family," she said.
'I feel very blessed'
Three weeks before her due date, Rachelle woke up at 4 a.m. and knew the baby was coming.
Six hours later, Greyson Kent Rife was born with a lot of hair and weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
"The first thing I said to him when he was born was, 'I love you, Greyson,' " Troy said. "And then I started kissing him."
Rachelle sees Greyson's birth as part of a divine plan.
"I feel very blessed I got to experience pregnancy and labor and delivery in all of its glory and to be able to breast feed now," she said.
The couple still has four other frozen embryos, genetic siblings of Greyson, which they plan to use in a year in hopes of giving him at least one brother or sister.
In the meantime, they still look at a black-and-white photo that looks like three flowers with several petals.
The picture is actually of the three embryos that were implanted in Rachelle's womb, one of which developed into Greyson.
"Isn't that crazy?" she said. "Out of that tiny little speck came this beautiful child."
You can reach Kim Kozlowski at email@example.com.