The fate of 400,000 embryos, frozen in labs around the country, is up for grabs. The government is spending millions to encourage their adoption, concerned that many will not survive.
Getting the message out to the public is a complicated task - from defining embryos to explaining their plight. But a little boy named Noah from New Orleans may be the best publicity of all.
How His Life Began
Noah recently celebrated his first birthday. And for his family there's much to celebrate.
Robert P. George is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and co-author of the book Embryo. George joined the 700 Club today for a full length interview on the subject of embryo adoption. Click play to watch.
Noah began his life as an embryo, frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored in a canister at the Fertility Institute in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, doctors at the clinic realized a lack of air-conditioning jeopardized Noah's little life and 1,400 other embryos in storage there. The heat could easily thaw them.
The doctors arranged a rescue operation that was primitive at best but effective. Louisiana State Police and Illinois Conservation Police provided flat-bottomed boats and escorted the canisters filled with tiny lives through flooded waters to safety.
Noah's mother, Rebekah Markham, remembers, "It wasn't until about 3 weeks after the storm that I called the fertility institute and asked about the embryos and they told me about the rescue and said that everything is fine."
The rescued embryo that would become Noah was implanted in his mother's womb in May 2006. On January 16, 2007, Noah Benton Markham was born to his grateful parents, Rebekah and Glen Markham.
Do Embryos Have Rights?
As quality of life debates move from fetuses to embryos, Noah's story has captured the hearts of Americans across the country and made its point: What rights will we grant to embryos?
At issue is embryonic stem cell research and what we will allow to be done to embryos in the name of science and helping others.
Also, decisions must be made about what to do with the thousands of embryos routinely made during in-vitro fertilization which remain in storage.
Doctors often fertilize many more eggs than are needed to save couples the time and money from having to go through the process again.
Call it a Baby
Rod Stoddart oversees Nightlight Christian Services in California which began the country's first embryo adoption program. Stoddart's passion for the job is clear.
"An embryo," he says, "is not an egg, not sperm, it's a baby. It's a baby at its very earliest stage of development but it's a baby and destroying it is the same as abortion."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is spending millions in grants to Nightlight and other agencies, hoping to educate Americans about the existence of frozen embryos available for adoption.
*Originally aired on March 27, 2008.