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Woman donates embryos on Facebook: 2 questions

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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The Watts family - Shelby, Angelina, mother Angel, Charles, Alexander and father Jeff - pose for a family photo while enjoying an afternoon at home (Credit: The Tennessean/George Walker IV)

Angel and Jeff Watts are the proud parents of two sets of twins. They used in vitro fertilization to conceive both times but were left with 6 embryos after deciding that their family was complete. They placed the embryos in the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, TN but, after two years, they remained at the Center. They came to find out that theirs were one of over 300 sets at the Center, with each set consisting of as many as 24 embryos, so they decided to take a more active approach in finding a recipient family. The Watts posted their situation on Facebook, listing the qualities they were looking for in potential adopters: married for several years, in a steady, loving relationship, strong Christian background, and roots in Tennessee. After receiving hundreds of responses over the course of only 3 weeks, they settled on the Galloways from Cookeville, TN.

Rayn and Richard Galloway met with the Watts and were happy to find that their families were, in many ways, similar. They also agreed with the Watts’ wish to remain in the lives of the children after they were born. As Angel Watts has said, she wants her kids “to know the Galloway family because they will be genetically connected forever.” Rayn echoed those sentiments, stating “Those are her babies, and she is giving me that gift…the least that I can do is let her have a relationship, see those children, and have a relationship for her own children’s sake.” The plan is for the Galloway’s children to know the Watts, but neither family intends on there being any confusion regarding who the parents are; Rayn and Richard will be the legal parents of any children that come from the adopted embryos in the same way that they would be if they adopted the children after they were born.
    
Two questions come to mind from this remarkable story:

One: Are Facebook and other social media outlets proper channels to go through for important decisions such as who will adopt your unborn children? As Dr. Glenn Weitzman said concerning the Watts’ methods, “If it works and people are careful, it will work well. That’s part of our generation and our new age, our ability to communicate and communicate with a wide range of people on our own without having to go through what might be considered normal channels.” In many ways, Dr. Weitzman is correct. Social media allows us to connect in ways that were simply not possible before and to have a greater degree of control over the relationships we establish. It allowed the Watts to find a family that met the standards that were most important to them and will make it far easier to maintain that relationship going forward.

However, the “and people are careful” part of Dr. Weitzman’s statement cannot be overemphasized. Great care must be taken to ensure that the convenience of social media does not detract from the quality of the process or negate the safeguards set in place to guarantee that the unborn lives at stake are properly cared for. In a similar way, we must also be careful to ensure that social media does not detract from the quality of our witness as Christians. While I am not equating our witness with the life of an unborn child, let this story remind each of us that, though social media can be a powerful tool for furthering the Kingdom, it is not something to be taken lightly. As Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Two: Is the importance of finding the right family to adopt the embryos, unborn but still viable and legitimate lives according to scripture, worth utilizing unconventional means when the more conventional ones don’t appear to be working? I would argue yes, though, as outlined above, one must take great care to ensure that in utilizing unconventional means, those lives are not put at greater risk. The Watts and Galloways seem to understand that truth and are placing the appropriate value on the unborn lives at stake. The Watts see these embryos in the same way they do their other children and the Galloways share that view. In the end, the fact that Facebook was the means by which these families found each other will get the headlines, but perhaps the more remarkable and meaningful aspect of this story is the shared love, care, and respect for the unborn children that have brought these families together. God loves each of us in that same way. Moreover, he calls each of us to demonstrate the same love and respect to others that he has shown to us. Who do you know that needs to experience that kind of love today?