Articles Tagged with “frozen embryos”

missouri-state-flag-150x150In late 2016, The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the decision that pre-embryos were “marital property of a special character” and could not be used to have a child without the consent of both parties. The parties to this case are Jalesia McQueen and then husband Justin Gadberry, who decided to freeze Gadberrys’ sperm just before he was deployed to Iraq. While Gadberry was overseas, the couple discussed In Vitro Fertilization (“IVF”) and just months later two of the four embryos were implanted in McQueen’s uterus. McQueen gave birth to twin boys and froze the other two embryos at a cryobank facility. The couple later divorced and a dispute regarding the disposition of their frozen embryos arose during their divorce proceedings. This dispute quickly turned into a legal case to determine when exactly life begins and the legal status of frozen embryos. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that frozen-embryos cannot be used without the consent of both McQueen and Gadberry. The Court further ruled that frozen embryos are not considered persons. Rather, they are considered the property of the two parties involved.

Judge Robert M. Clayton III wrote the majority opinion, stating that awarding joint custody “subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone.” The court made it clear in the decision that they were not determining when life begins, but just interpreting the legal status of embryos in Missouri. The Court ruled that embryos have no legal claim to the same protections as a human being under Missouri law, and that forcing the husband to have a child that he doesn’t want to have violates his privacy rights. McQueen is planning on appealing the decision. After the ruling was issued, she stated “It’s part of me, and what rights do the judges or the governments have to tell me I cannot have them?”

Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry’s attorney, commented “I think today’s ruling is a victory for individuals against unjustified government intrusion.” Schlesinger hopes that this case will provide guidance to other states that are facing similar issues. This issue will likely arise in numerous states at some point, as IVF becomes more prevalent. Click here to read our blog post about the legal status of frozen embryos to learn more about where several states stand on this question.

Spain
Last month, the Supreme Court of Spain issued a landmark ruling that recognizes the right to paid maternity leave for parents of children born through surrogacy. Although gestational surrogacy is illegal in Spain, the Court held that the need to take care of children outweighs any legal barriers set forth by Spain’s surrogacy ban. The decision also extends various rights to mothers of children born through surrogacy, such as a reduced workday for nursing mothers and the right to take one year of unpaid leave after the maternity leave. Spaniards who seek to build their family through surrogacy must go abroad, and two such scenarios, one involving a surrogacy arrangement in the United States and the other in India, set this case in motion.  In October, Spain’s congress also voted to equalize paternity and maternity leave, awarding fathers the same sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave that mothers receive.

The decision comes at a time when the issue of maternity benefits is in the spotlight in the United States.  A New Jersey woman is suing her former employer, Verizon Network Solutions, for denying her paid maternity leave when she had children through surrogacy in 2013. Various arguments exist for both sides of the issue. For example, some posit that since mothers of children born to a gestational surrogate did not give birth, they do not need time to recover physically. This argument is often used to justify the denial of extended paternity leave for fathers. On the other hand, proponents of maternity benefits for mothers of children born through surrogacy contend that a new mom needs time to bond with the baby, especially when she did not carry the child.

Although the Verizon lawsuit is one of the first of its kind (there was a federal lawsuit to claim benefits for paid leave by a woman who had children through surrogacy in 2011, but the case was ultimately dismissed), this issue is likely to become more prevalent as gestational surrogacy continues to grow as a family-building option. Stay tuned to our blog for more discussions on emerging reproductive law issues.

Phone App
The London Sperm Bank just launched the United Kingdom’s first sperm donor app, nicknamed by news outlets as the “Tinder for Sperm Donors.”  Individuals can use the app to search for sperm donors and order sperm on their phones. The free app , considered the first of its kind, displays donor profiles that describe physical characteristics, medical history, the sperm bank’s staff impressions, and other information (check out this Cosmopolitan article for some examples). Users can set preferences for characteristics such as eye color, hair color, education, and personality, and receive an alert when a donor matching their criteria is available. In contrast to dating apps like Tinder, donor profiles are anonymous and do not contain photos. Donors are vetted by the London Sperm Bank and pay a fee to be listed on the app.

The app has been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (“HFEA”); the UK’s regulating entity that oversees IVF research, clinics, and procedures. However, the app has also generated some ethical debate. A representative of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics group stated that the app constitutes “trivialisation of parenthood,” equating it to “reproduction via mobile phone.” Meanwhile, the London Sperm Bank issued a statement assuring that “Ordering sperm from an online catalogue or an app does not trivialise treatment, and every step meets the requirements of the HFEA.” Additionally, the scientific director of the London Sperm bank stated “you make all the transactions online, like you do anything else these days. This allows a woman who wants to get a sperm donor to gain control in the privacy of her own home and to choose and decide in her own time.”

We are curious to see the impact of the app and whether other sperm banks follow suit. Has this app revolutionized gamete donation as we know it? Only time will tell. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on the app as it gains traction among individuals seeking sperm donors.

8-10-09-193-thumb-667x1000-60849As gestational surrogacy continues to increase in the United States, so do opportunities to observe its trends and outcomes. Many states presently permit gestational surrogacy, although the laws vary by state and are rapidly evolving. Researchers from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility compiled information regarding the below trends arising from the continued practice of gestational surrogacy in the United States:

  • In the past 15 years, the number of gestational carrier cycles has grown by more than 470%.
  • Almost 70% of fertility clinics throughout the country now offer gestational surrogacy.

embryo.jpgThe Sofia Vergara/Nick Loeb frozen embryo dispute has taken the nation by storm. The battle over their frozen embryos begs the question: are embryos persons or property? This blog post will provide a brief overview of the legal status of embryos, as the answer varies throughout the United States.

Courts and state legislatures have categorized embryos into four distinct groups:

1. Persons

fortune.jpgAn important issue surrounding frozen embryos has recently emerged into spotlight: What happens when parents die and leave no will or instructions for the fertility clinic regarding the disposition of their frozen embryos? A Master in Chancery appointed by a Dallas probate court has recommended that a two year old boy, whose parents were murdered, inherit their eleven frozen embryos when he turns eighteen. John Robertson, professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, addresses the groundbreaking nature of this case in the Harvard Law Petrie-Flom Center Blog by stating that “there are no Texas or United States cases involving inheritance of frozen embryos when both parties have died and left no instructions with the clinic or in a will.”

This issue introduces the question of whether frozen embryos are considered “property” in these types of scenarios. Robertson informs us that the Master found that Texas courts have not held them to be property, nor have they found them to be worthless. He reports that as a result, the Master assigned them an implicit value under Texas’s intestacy statute since they can be the subject of an enforceable contract. If they embryos are not designated as “property,” the Master found that the boy can still retain an “ownership interest” that would give him “dispositional control” over the eleven embryos.

Robertson introduces the complex issues that arise from giving a two year old orphan dispositional control over his future siblings when he turns eighteen, including the “oddity” of asking someone so young to “decide whether to continue paying storage fees, discard [the embryos], or donate to others or to research.”

This story below was reported by Greenbelt Patch in Maryland:

‘A Maryland woman has gained custody of nine frozen embryos she created with her ex-husband, according to an attorney working on the case.

Godlove Mbah of Greenbelt and his ex-wife, Honorine Anong of Upper Marlboro, were divorced in May 2012, but disputes have continued over the couple’s stored embryos and a 3-year-old daughter previously conceived from one their embryos.