Expository speech

5:26 PM

Well, I figured you might be curious to read my expository speech with which I qualified for regionals twice, so here it is.

"Sharon was unable to have children. Her and her husband’s hopes for a family were shattered with the reality of infertility. But Sharon discovered IVF, In Vitro Fertilization, where her children could be conceived outside her body, then implanted in her womb. She was able to have 4 children through IVF. But Sharon has 14 live embryos left over from the treatment, and they are being preserved in freezers until she and her husband decide what to do with them. These frozen embryos are nicknamed snowflakes.

What should be done with them? Today, I’d like to share with you about The Plight of the Snowflakes; beginning with first of all The Procedure, secondly, The options, and finally; The Solutions.

IVF: The Procedure

IVF is the abbreviation for In Vitro Fertilization. “In Vitro” is Latin for “In Glass”. IVF is a medical process whereby human eggs are fertilized in a glass laboratory dish. Thousands of couples each year seek IVF as a solution to infertility.

Now, the first step in IVF is the female patient is given a drug to cause the overproduction of human eggs; also called ova. Next, the embryologists aspirate (meaning extract) the ova with a hollow needle and then fertilize them under a microscope. This is called assisted hatching.

When the eggs are fertilized, biologically, human life begins. Let’s take a look in that Petri dish.
This is a high magnification of one of the several fertilized ova. This is no longer an ovum, but a conceptus. Today in my presentation, I’m going to use the broader term embryo rather than conceptus.

Over the next few days, the embryos divide and divide, creating more cells. These embryos, from the point of conception, can survive up to 5 days in the Petri dish. At the time of implantation in the mother, the embryos can consist of merely 8 cells (at two days old), or even of hundreds, as a spherical blastocysts (at 5 days old).

But size-wise, the embryos are still smaller than the point of a needle. The next step is the Embryologist grades the quality of the embryos. The deformed embryos are discarded and the healthiest ones are implanted in the mother. Extra embryos are retrieved, just in case those implanted in the mother do not survive. These extras are submerged in a light bluish-purple liquid that functions as an anti-freeze and are placed in either capsules or straws. The capsules or straws are set in a controlled rate freezer where the temperature is steadily dropped down to 195 degrees below zero (Celsius), the anti-freeze solution preventing the embryos from icing over, which would destroy them. The embryos are transferred to these tanks containing liquid nitrogen, where they are stored until the parents decide what to do with them. Currently there are more than 400,000 frozen embryos in America.

Let’s return to those implanted embryos in the mother. Unfortunately, IVF embryos don’t have much of a chance of surviving the transfer, so typically, two to four embryos at a time are inserted in the womb, to ensure a definite pregnancy. Occasionally, more than one embryo will survive in the womb, blessing the once childless couple with twins, or even triplets.

So basically, In Vitro Fertilization is the stimulation, aspiration and fertilization of ova, and the grading, implanting and freezing of embryos. Now that you have learned the basics about the IVF procedure, let’s move on.

The Options

Most often, after IVF, the parents no longer need or want their frozen embryos. But what can be done with them?

There are several options, in fact. The First? To throw them away. This option is called embryo disposal. Embryo disposal consists mainly of either throwing the capsule or straw containing the frozen embryo into a trash bin, or flushing the Snowflakes down the sink. Unfortunately, there are severe moral and ethical hindrances to this procedure. Because human life biologically begins at conception and since life deserves dignity and respect at any point of development, this option is ethically immoral.

The Second option is to donate the snowflakes to research. Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Perhaps you’ve heard it mentioned before. I’ll call it ESCR. Briefly, ESCR is the harvesting of embryos for stem cells. Stem cells have a potential to be formed into many types of tissue, to repair damaged organs in one’s body.
Only embryos that were frozen as blastocysts can be used in this procedure. Here’s why: only the blastocyst has this collection of cells inside. These are embryonic stem cells. ESCR is the confiscation of these cells using an aspirating device. The process destroys the embryo/blastocyst, a tragic occurrence that must not be continued. In fact, it is not even necessary. David Prentice, an author whose work was featured in The Examiner in July writes,” Adult stem cells have helped treat thousands of patients for at least 72 different diseases and conditions.” He also mentions that embryonic stem cells, when tested in mice, have caused tumors, by reproducing uncontrollably. Many scientists claim that ESCR is more promising than Adult Stem Cell Research, but why then is it not keeping its promise? Clearly, donating frozen embryos for ESCR is a morally unethical.

The third option is to donate the Snowflakes to an adoption agency, where adopting couples can thaw, implant, gestate and give birth to the children. Snowflake children are normal people, just like you and me! They are not deformed or abnormal in any way. Snowflakes Adoption helps solve the problem of the more than 400,000 frozen snowflakes that are waiting for a chance for life. Of the three options, this is superior, because it gives life, rather than destroying it. Because this option is the most favorable, I would now like to further develop it in my third point.

The Solutions

Embryo adoption is a solutions to the tragedy of embryo disposal and destruction. Here is additional information on snowflake adoption: First, meet Adam and Allison, a fictional couple, who have left-over embryos that they would like to donate. And now meet Brandon and Bree, a couple who are unable to have children, and wish to adopt a child from a Snowflake Adoption Agency. Here is how the process works:

Adam and Allison must first fill out an application disclosing their medical and genetic history. They can choose whether to donate and remain anonymous, or they can view various applications filled out by adopting couples, and select the couple of their choice. They decide to go with the second option. Out of all the applications reviewed, Adam and Allison both decide on Brandon and Bree, to be the parents of their child. The couple is then contacted and correspondence is established between the two. The Adoption Agency then pays to have Adam and Allison’s frozen embryos shipped from their IVF clinic. Everything is free for Adam and Allison. The cost for Brandon and Bree is about $8,000 dollars.

Bree has an appointment scheduled at the medical clinic where she is sedated, making the embryo implantation a painless procedure. Two snowflake embryos are slowly thawed and are surgically placed just so in her womb. 9 months later, Brandon and Bree have a beautiful baby boy. They send photos of little Ian to his biological parents and correspondence is continued between the two families throughout Ian’s life. Adam and Allison are ensured of a happy and healthy home environment for their son.

This is an example of an Embryo adoption where correspondence is held to a high degree. Many times the Adopting couple does not ever meet the donating couple, and the adoption Agency lets everything remain anonymous. Embryo adoption is only one of the solutions to saving frozen embryos. There are various ways to further protect them. Such as; laws passed to ban embryonic stem cell research. ESCR has been denied federal funding, but state funding remains available in a few states. Louisiana, however, has a law passed specifically defending the rights of the frozen embryos. All states should have this legal protection for those 400,000 snowflakes. Another obvious way to solve the problem of snowflake storage is to reject IVF as a solution to infertility, because IVF is responsible for these leftover embryos in the first place. Why perpetuate our problem? There are most likely many other solutions and other ways to protect embryonic life. I encourage you to seek them out.

By now, I hope that you have learned valuable information, on first of all IVF: The solution to Infertility, a brief explanation of how In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo freezing works, secondly The Options, about the various choices that parents have concerning their frozen embryos, and finally The Solutions, ways to solve the problem of those thousands of snowflakes in storage. As I conclude, let us remember Sharon, the woman who has 14 embryos in storage, and to this day is wrestling over what to do them. My desire is that you now have more of an understanding of her dilemma, and that you know which option she should choose. Choose life!" :)

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