Disagreements about how to handle frozen embryos in a divorce are not new and are actually on the rise as the number of frozen embryos in the U.S. is rising. Historically, judges have tended to side with the spouse who does not want the other to use the embryos, reasoning that it’s not good policy to force someone to be a parent. The way one state has chosen to deal with such disagreements has shocked reproductive rights and fertility advocates.
In April, the Arizona legislature passed a bill saying that if custody of frozen embryos is disputed, they should go to the spouse who wants to use them to “develop to birth.” The new law took effect on July 1, 2018. If one biological parent is given rights to embryos in a divorce under the new Arizona law, the other biological parent will be absolved of any financial responsibility for the resulting child or children.
That bill and resulting law came on the heels of an Arizona legal battle where the judge ruled that neither former spouse should be given custody of the embryos they’d frozen after going through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Instead, the judge ordered the former couple to put the eggs up for donation. Under this ruling, both biological parents could have a child in the world they wouldn’t know and with whom they wouldn’t have a relationship, against their wishes. The judge’s ruling has been appealed and fertility rights groups have urged the appeals court to weigh each former spouse’s interests.
Anti-abortion and other conservative groups are pointing to the Arizona law as an example as they advocate for embryonic rights in cases across the country, arguing that frozen embryos resulting from IVF are the result of the voluntary exercise of “procreational rights.” The law and the argument that frozen embryos are children with rights is concerning to not only abortion rights advocates but those who work in the fertility industry. It’s unclear whether other state legislatures or judicial actions will be swayed by these recent developments, but it’s something reproductive rights attorneys will be watching closely.
If you are considering surrogacy, egg donation or sperm donation, contact us today. Our firm provides comprehensive legal and counseling services for those using assisted reproduction with a third party. Each client is ensured of receiving personalized attention, support and counseling. The contracts that we prepare for our clients are comprehensive and thorough. We also help guide parents through the finalization of their parental rights, which can seem daunting and confusing.