European Court: Woman Can’t Use Frozen Embryos, Pro-Life Group Disagrees

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Court: Woman Can’t Use Frozen Embryos, Pro-Life Group Disagrees Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 7, 2006

London, England ( — The European Court of Human Rights has issued a ruling preventing a woman from using frozen embryos from fertility treatments despite the wishes of her former partner. A pro-life bioethics group says it disagrees with the decision.

Natallie Evans has taken her lawsuit through courts in England, where she did not prevail in her efforts to use the embryos, so she went to the European court. She wants to use the embryos even though her former boyfriend, Howard Johnston, disagrees.

Baroness Ruth Deech, the former head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, told the BBC that, "At every stage throughout IVF, the consent of both the man and the woman must be preset and must not be withdrawn."

"It embodies equality between the sexes and consent which is deeply embedded in medical law, especially procreative law," she explained and added that men should have the right to say that they don’t want their embryos to be used by a former wife or partner in the case of a relationship breaking up.

She indicated the case would have been different had she had frozen her eggs or a slice of ovarian tissue, which would not have included sperm from her former boyfriend.

But Josephine Quintavalle, the director of the British pro-life bioethics group CORE says she had sympathy for Evans’ plight and worries that the six frozen human embryos — days old unborn children — would not be destroyed.

"The immediate solution to this deeply moving story is for Natallie’s ex-partner to change his mind and assume responsibility for the embryos which he co-created," she explained.

"Such a gesture should be made both in a spirit of compassion for Natallie but also in recognition of the new lives which he willingly created in the first place and which carry his genes," Quintavalle added.

Quintavalle said British lawmakers need to revisit national policy on the freezing of embryos. She suggested that only eggs or sperm should be frozen, instead of freezing embryos who would only be destroyed later.

"This is not a solution for Natallie but would surely avoid any repetition of her sad experience," she concluded.