Question: "What are snowflake adoptions? Should Christians consider them?"

Answer: Snowflake adoption is the adoption of a frozen embryo that was originally intended for in vitro fertilization (IVF) but never used. The process includes carefully thawing the embryo and then implanting it into a woman’s uterus, aiming to achieve full-term pregnancy. The term snowflake is a reference to the once-frozen state of the embryo. It also emphasizes the uniqueness of each human being, just as every snowflake has an individual design.

Christians should consider snowflake adoption because the Bible teaches that life begins at conception—specifically, when a male’s sperm fertilizes a female’s egg. This means embryos are human beings. In support of this, David acknowledged that God formed his body before he was born, saying, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13, ESV). Moreover, God viewed David as a person even though he was an “unformed substance” (Psalm 139:16). The Hebrew word golem, often translated as “substance” (e.g., ESV, KJV, NASB), suggests the embryonic stage of development when a person’s body parts are less defined and functional. These verses reveal that embryos are worthy of life and therefore of adoption.

Understanding the process of IVF reveals the need for snowflake adoption. People who choose IVF have struggled to conceive naturally. Consequently, they undergo a process in which doctors extract sperm from the man and eggs from the woman, fertilizing the eggs in a laboratory setting, typically in a petri dish. Once the sperm successfully fertilize the eggs, doctors will transfer one or more of the embryos into a woman’s uterus, hoping the embryos will continue to develop through childbirth.

Most Christian ethicists oppose IVF because the process includes the use of fertility drugs to create multiple embryos, most of which will be destroyed. The reason doctors grow several embryos at once is so they can select the most viable one for implantation. Having multiple embryos also provides backup options if the first attempt fails to result in a full-term pregnancy. Nevertheless, according to the biblical view of human life, the ends don’t justify the means.

Tragically, most embryonic human beings created in the IVF process are not implanted into a woman and are destroyed as biological waste. Destruction methods vary by medical facility and local laws, but they include mandated sterilization to halt embryonic development and incineration. Additionally, some embryos are designated for stem cell research, involving procedures that also end in the destruction of the embryos. Yet another fate of unused embryos is being frozen indefinitely without a plan for future use. Unfortunately, many of these don’t survive the thawing process.

What’s also tragic is that some of the embryos that are transferred into a woman are also destroyed. When multiple embryos are successfully implanted, as in the case of twins or triplets, doctors often allow only one to survive. This practice, referred to as “selective reduction,” is aimed at improving the chances of one successful pregnancy and reducing risk to the mother. Some advocates argue that selective reduction is morally permissible, equating it to miscarriage. However, selective reduction intentionally ends human lives, while miscarriage results from natural processes under the sovereignty of God.

Some Christians may be concerned that snowflake adoptions endorse the IVF process. However, snowflake adoptions don’t endorse the IVF process any more than conventional adoption endorses the circumstances under which other adoptive children were conceived or raised. Rather, parents who adopt once-frozen embryos provide a human being at risk of death with a chance to grow up in a loving family and live a full and meaningful life.

Additionally, some Christians may dismiss snowflake adoption simply because an embryo is at an early stage of development. It’s true that embryos lack fully formed body parts, but that does not diminish their personhood any more than individuals born with malformed limbs or improperly functioning organs. Likewise, though embryos lack consciousness, they are still human beings, just as individuals who are asleep or in comatose states are.

An alternative to IVF is intra-uterine insemination (IUI), which avoids creating additional embryos to be destroyed. In this procedure, a man’s sperm is injected into a woman’s uterus during ovulation. If implantation is unsuccessful in IUI, natural processes take over, and there is no “selective reduction” such as with IVF. Unfortunately, the likelihood of achieving pregnancy through IUI is lower than IVF. Nevertheless, some couples choose IUI to avoid the ethical concerns of IVF.

God values all human life, no matter the stage of development or manner of conception. Snowflake adoptions give prospective parents the opportunity to rescue embryonic human beings from lethal or uncertain fates.