Brad Mattes Blog

Lives Yet to Be Lived

The birth of Hannah Strege is recorded in history books and has been the subject of university ethics classes.  She was the world’s first adopted frozen embryo. Hannah’s origin changed the landscape of possibilities regarding adoption.

Over 700 children and their adoptive parents have followed in Hannah’s tiny footprints. Many more are on their way.

She was born December 31, 1998 and is 21 years old. Where is this young adult now?

I first met the Strege family when doing an interview for our weekly TV program, Facing Life Head-On. A recent reunion enabled me to catch up with Hannah and her parents Marlene and John Strege. Hannah is currently at Biola University pursuing a degree in sociology and plans to get a master’s in social work, specializing in adoption. John, a bestselling author, has just released a new book titled A Snowflake Named Hannah, Ethics, Faith and the First Adoption of a Frozen Embryo. Marlene has become an impassioned advocate for embryo adoption.

The word “snowflake” holds a negative connotation in today’s political climate, but like an actual snowflake, frozen human embryos are unique, as is every other human being at this stage of development, never to be replicated in the history of the world.

Other babies followed Hannah’s historic journey, so Nightlight Christian Adoptions which facilitated the adoption of Hannah, established the program called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption.

It’s easy to think of hundreds of thousands of human embryos in frozen storage across the nation as nonhuman.  Even though their circumstances are decidedly unique, their lives should be valued and protected. To help you see them as individual human beings, let’s put actual faces on some of Hannah’s contemporaries who are now transitioning into adulthood and careers.

Twins Mark and Luke Borden are 19 and intent on serving our country in the military. Luke is a US Marine and Mark will join the Coast Guard at the end of March. Their mother, Lucinda is very proud and thankful for her sons.

Sets of twins are not unusual in the world of embryo adoption because multiples are placed into the womb.  Danette and Jeff Gillingham are the parents of two sets of twins, all are genetic sisters. The parents got more than they bargained for, namely a mandolin, banjo, ukulele and several other stringed instruments. Savannah and Morgan are 16 and Hailey and Jillian 13. Together they have formed an Americana Bluegrass band called The GillyGirls that performs across the country. They’ve released a third album and have received multiple awards for their music.

Even when you think you’ve mastered cutting-edge technology, God steps in and demonstrates that He’s still in control. Heather and Douglas Hutchens had three embryos placed in Heather’s womb. The one surviving embryo split, resulting in identical twin boys, Ben and Sam who are now 18.  Both boys are freshmen at Oklahoma State University with the same goal – sports media. Their younger brother David is 15 and is active in karate and Trail Life.

This reproductive technology can generate dizzying conversations around the dinner table. For example, David claims the high ground for being the oldest sibling because he was in frozen storage longer than his twin brothers!

An untold number of these precious, tiny humans are created each year through troubling experiments in IVF, human cloning, and gene editing and manipulation. Oftentimes they are subsequently killed.

While we do not condone these anti-life technologies, embryo adoption is a rescue mission – adopting kids from a frozen orphanage. These children are innocent, and every indication is that these young kids profiled above will be making positive marks on society and be a blessing to our nation. This reality that frozen embryos are lives yet to be lived warrants a continued, closer look at embryo adoption when searching for alternative ways to grow your family.


Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

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