In a recent case before a West Coast family court, a man and woman fought over the fate of embryos that were created from their shared genetic material. The story has gained a high level of media attention in Texas and elsewhere in recent months, as the issue is one that has emerged more and more as technology advances. In this case, the woman wanted to use the embryos to carry a child that shares her genetic makeup, while her former husband wanted the embryos destroyed. The ruling has left the woman distraught and feeling as if she lost a child custody battle.
The couple married in 2010, just after the woman learned that she had breast cancer. Fearing that treatment for her disease might render her infertile, she and her new husband made the decision to go through in vitro fertilization. However, the marriage began to falter, and the parties filed for divorce just a few years later.
When they went through fertility treatments, both parties signed a document stating that the embryos were to be destroyed if the parties moved to divorce. In court, the woman claimed that she did not realize that the document was a binding contract and believed that she would have the ability to change her mind at a later time. The man argued that he should not be forced into a parenting role against his will.
The judge ruled that the woman has no right to compel her former husband to be a parent. The ruling states that the embryos are to be thawed and disposed of. It is unclear if the woman is taking action to appeal that decision, although she has stated that she would do so if the ruling was not in her favor. In court, she has referred to the embryos as her “babies,” and she likely views the decision as a child custody loss. For Texas readers who are considering fertility treatments, this case should serve as a warning to carefully review any and all documents prior to signing.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Divorced couple’s frozen embryos must be ‘thawed and discarded,’ judge rules“, Maura Dolan, Nov. 18, 2015