Some of the strangest news I’ve ever seen came across my screen this week. A company in Australia is turning frozen embryo children into jewelry for their parents to wear.
Previously Baby Bee Hummingbirds had been making jewelry out of mothers’ breastmilk and placentas. Now, the company has turned its attention to frozen human embryos— embryos that couples choose not to implant in the mother’s uterus and no longer want to store or “donate.” To put it plainly, they’re making trinkets out of discarded children.
Founder Amy McGlade says, “I don’t believe there is any other business in the world that creates jewelery from human embryos, and I firmly believe that we are pioneering the way in this sacred art, and opening the possibilities to families around the world. . . .What a better way to celebrate your most treasured gift, your child, than through jewelery?”
Babies, Not Trinkets
Drs. Paul and Susan Lim have argued compellingly that we don’t “donate humans”; we donate objects: furniture, money, cars. Twisting language like this obscures what’s really going on in the industry of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). As the Lims’ own story shows, embryos are human. The proof is in their youngest daughter, adopted as an embryo, with her own genetic makeup, her own hands, feet, brain, and personality. She now lives a fully human life, and existed as a frozen embryo before they knew her.
One Australian mother, who carries the ashes of her embryos in a heart pendant, candidly says, “My embryos were my babies — frozen in time.” She remarks, “I needed them with me.”
The author of the article also overtly affirms that the embryos are babies whom parents should honor. Try as they may, advocates of this new trend can’t help but say what they know deep down to be true: these are babies. “Ms. Stafford chose a heart pendant through Baby Bee Hummingbirds, so she could carry her babies close to her heart, where they should be.”
And yet, that’s not where they should be. God designed embryos to live inside a mother’s womb for protection and growth. They are not supposed to be incinerated and hung round a mother’s neck, no matter how close to the heart they hang. How do we love embryos? By allowing them to keep living and growing.
Baby Bee Hummingbird’s Facebook page responds to criticism by saying, “Please only read with love and respect. The families we craft for are truly aware of the various worldwide options for embryos in storage. They are informed, educated, and loving people who have made an educated decision.”
This is part of what makes embryo jewelry so breathtakingly surreal. Educated and wealthy married couples are choosing to turn their children into wearable ornaments. In the process, they attempt to make death into something precious.
A Time to Question
IVF has become the default option physicians suggest for couples struggling with infertility, yet it has gone largely unquestioned in the broader Christian world. Now is the time to begin raising serious questions, if we haven’t already. The ethical issues are many, including the historic disregard for life in creating the procedure and the ongoing disregard for life as the techniques continue to develop. The mass majority of IVF not only destroys human life; it conceives life it knows will be destroyed. Add to this the gigantic financial incentive doctors have to perform IVF, and Christians ought to openly, articulately, and lovingly challenge the mainstream of this approach to conceiving children.
As Christians, we also need to equip ourselves to understand and guide parents who have frozen embryos in limbo. We must be able to point them to a better way of celebrating their children than turning them into necklaces. Let’s remind parents that, rather than wearing babies around their necks, they could clasp their arms around their children as they tuck them in and hug them goodnight. Instead of petrifying their children in stones around their wrists, they could hold their hands to cross the street.
We must value all human life as a precious gift from God. We also must be willing to help those who have frozen their embryos — whether unwittingly in ignorance or with a stinging conscience — to know that their frozen children are, or were, just that: their children. And we stand ready to offer them the hope of the gospel.
Savior of the Weak and Wicked
Whatever sons and daughters have been lost in IVF, they are not lost to God. Just as hundreds of thousands of embryonic humans sit frozen and utterly vulnerable to the whims of adult humans, there is One who became vulnerable for us, whose beginnings were the same as theirs. Our Savior Jesus, true God of true God, became an embryo for us.
Jesus became poor and weak, even to the point of death. And he subjected himself to the whims of adult humans, too. But no one took his life from him — he laid it down willingly. He died for our guilt, the guilt that’s more than just a feeling, but a true status. God’s Son Jesus received our punishment through his death on a cross, and God raised him from the dead, so that we can be forgiven and set free to love him. We can even be forgiven for creating children with the knowledge that some of them will be killed at our word.
Let’s call everyone, all the guilty, the people that we once were, to turn from their wicked ways and trust Jesus. Let’s speak into the confusion of our culture with the truth that a child’s death is never sentimental and never precious. And let’s help rescue children who are perishing, rather than turning them into an accessory for their parents to wear.