Australian Embryos to be Destroyed

On New Years day, 1998, hundreds of frozen embryos, some up to 13 years old, which would otherwise be able to develop, became vulnerable to destruction due to a new law in Australia, according to the Melbourne daily newspaper The Age.

“Marilyn Hogben has been dreading New Year's Day since the arrival of a letter from a Melbourne IVF [in vitro fertilization] clinic telling her the time had come to decide the fate of her frozen embryos.

“She thinks of the five of them, the legacy of 18 months unsuccessful IVF treatment in 1991, as potential brothers and sisters for her five-year-old daughter. But, at 44, she feels too old to have another baby and she and her husband opted to have their embryos destroyed.

“Although Hogben knows discarding the embryos is, in her situation, logical [according to the article], she has been alternating between guilt and grief as the year drew to an end.

“I'm not willing to give away one of our daughter's brothers or sisters. I'm willing to discard them, but not to donate them,” she says.

The article quotes Hogben as saying that she realizes this “sounds selfish.”

Couples that do not seek an extension on the storage of their embryos will cause them to be destroyed.

According to the article, “[t]he Catholic Church denounces it as a ‘monstrous practice.’…”

In Melbourne, the “Infertility Treatment Authority” has extended the timeline to March 31 as they try to track down couples whose embryos are affected by the law.

“Counselor Kay Oke … says [couples] should have had the right long ago to dispose of their embryos,” according to the article.

She is quoted saying, “For many couples, hearing from us five years later has made it so much more painful. Every day I get six to seven phone calls from people very distressed about what to do.”

She estimates that more than 30 couples who have not responded have moved or changed phone numbers but that the rest of the 100 “have got letters and just can't pick up the phone,” to decide the fate of their progeny.

Serving Despite Bureaucracy

Those activists who find government regulations a barrier to their apostolate can learn a lesson from one group that has it worse. The Florida charity Caritas has achieved remarkable success serving Cuba despite that country's communist regime, according to the Dec. 31 Miami Herald.

The Catholic organization “Caritas Cuba and other Church organizations have emerged in recent years to help patch the holes in Cuba's unraveling safety net, providing powdered milk to the elderly, free medicine to the ill, and food and other help to prisoners' families.

“Cuba declared official atheism three years after the 1959 revolution, but in 1992 it began eliminating restrictions on worship.”

Anita Snow's article continues, “But the government regulations often make charity work difficult, forcing Caritas Cuba to navigate bureaucratic channels and sensitive politics to get food and medicine to the needy.”

The secret? “‘Dialogue with the government has been instrumental,’ said Rolando Suarez, Caritas Cuba's director.

“Wayne Smith, former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said Caritas Cuba performed a minor miracle in late 1996 when it persuaded the government to accept most of the aid that Cuban exiles in Miami sent to victims of Hurricane Lili.

“Caritas knows how to operate within a difficult system to get things done,” Smith said.