Case brings attention to embryo rights

An ongoing case regarding rights over pre-frozen embryos may be of interest to couples in Massachusetts. The Illinois case concerns a former couple who were fighting over ownership of the frozen pre-embryos. There is no federal law governing embryo rights, and state laws vary. Under Tennessee law, former partners can stop an embryo from being implanted if their former partners have other options for having children. Under Iowa law, both the man and the woman involved have to sign consent forms for embryos to be planted or discarded. In New York, the courts used a contract signed at a fertility clinic as the basis for its decision.

Before the Illinois case began, the former couple had been emailing back and forth about the fate of the embryos for a year. The man later filed a complaint in court asking for the embryos not to be used in August 2011. The man had donated sperm to his former girlfriend after they had been dating for five months. She had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and treatment might leave her sterile.

In the emails, the man at first told his former partner that he was glad to be able to help her. He later expressed reservations when he began to question how others would view his absence from his children’s lives. One of the central issues within the case has been the embryos being the woman’s chance for her own biological child.

Custody rights usually involve children who have already been conceived, but pre-frozen embryos have added another dimension to custody fights. Since no overarching law governs embryos, judges have to decide on which parties have rights to the embryos and what qualifies as consent. At attorney with experience in paternity actions may be able to assist potential parents assert their rights over the process.

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