New Legal Frontier: Defining the Rights of Frozen Human Embryos
Posted Oct 6, 2008 1:20 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Thanks to today's reproductive technology, the interrelated questions of when life begins and who has the right to make decisions about someone else's body and children are becoming increasingly complex.
The latest wrinkle: Whether frozen embryos belong to the couple (usually married) who asked a medical clinic to fertilize their eggs and sperm in a laboratory setting, or have some independent rights of their own, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Routinely, frozen embryos are implanted in the uterus of a woman seeking to have a baby, and they are not at issue in the legal debate. However, what is hotly contested by some is what should happen to the frozen embryos that are not needed by the couple who asked the clinic to create them, the newspaper explains.
Presently, couples generally have the right to choose whether to discard the extra frozen embryos, give them to another infertile couple for implantation and adoption or donate them for medical research. However, that could soon change, under legislation sponsored largely by abortion opponents:
"Colorado voters will decide in November whether to amend the state's constitution to assert that an embryo is a person," the newspaper writes. "Indiana lawmakers have proposed legislation that would allow abandoned embryos to be adopted for implantation by another couple. New Jersey legislators have moved to allow unused embryos to become wards of the state. And Georgia and West Virginia are considering legislation that would give embryos 'personhood' status."
In the absence of such definitive legal rule-making, another option is a real possibility, too, the Times notes: If couples postpone the decision from one year to the next, simply paying the fees to keep their frozen embryos in cold storage, eventually "their children or other relatives may someday have to decide what to do with a most peculiar inheritance."
ABAJournal.com: "Frozen Embryo Gets Day in Court"