The Legal Status of Frozen Embryos

The 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
The first classification perceives frozen embryos as persons, entitled to all rights conferred to human beings. For example, Louisiana defines an embryo as a “juridical person, with all attendant rights and protections.”

2. Property
The second classification categorizes embryos as property. In York v. Jones (1989), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that embryos are property.

3. No Rights
The third classification embodies the U.S. Supreme Court’s viewpoint expressed in Roe v. Wade (1973) that the term “persons” is inapplicable to the unborn. Under this perspective, embryos do not receive any rights, as rights are accorded after birth.

4. “Special Consideration”
The fourth and increasingly more common classification consists of an intermediate perspective that grants embryos “special consideration.” The exact meaning of “special consideration” is presently unclear. This perspective is derived from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s articulation in Davis v. Davis (1992) that embryos should receive “special respect due to their potential for human life.”

As assisted reproductive technology becomes more widespread, disputes regarding the legal status of embryos are bound to arise. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on developments in reproductive law.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or

Remember, these blog posts are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

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