Ireland High Court: Frozen Human Embryos Have No Right to Life

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Ireland High Court: Frozen Human Embryos Have No Right to Life Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 14
, 2006

Dublin, Ireland ( — Ireland’s High Court has ruled that a frozen human embryo has no right to life. The ruling comes as the court decided a case in which it said a mother of two can’t use three frozen embryos in an attempt to get pregnant against the will of her husband, with whom she is separated.

The couple went to court earlier this year to decide the fate of the embryos, unique unborn children, who are stored in a fertility clinic in Rathgar.

The couple had already had children and the mother was left unable to have more after an operation to remove a cyst on her ovary led to the removal of most of that ovary.

After the surgery, the couple underwent in-vitro fertilization and six human embryos were produced in 2002 and three were successfully implanted and she gave birth as a result. The three remaining embryos were at the center of the dispute.

The mother’s attorney told the court that the Ireland Constitution protects the right to life of unborn children and that Ireland prohibits abortions.

However, Justice Brian McGovern said that human embryos are not considered unborn children and said the couple must decide the fate of the frozen embryos together, not the courts.

"Laws should, and generally do, reflect society’s values and will be influenced by them. But, at the end of the day, it is the duty of the courts to implement and apply the law, not morality," the judge said. "Until the law or the Constitution is changed, this issue remains within the sphere of ethics and morality."

There is no word on whether the decision will be appealed to Ireland’s Supreme Court.

The Pro Life Campaign, the top pro-life group in Ireland, issued a statement saying it was deeply disappointed by the results of the decision.

“There can be no doubt that the human embryo is alive and unborn. The embryo is not potential human life – it is human life with potential, albeit fragile and dependent,” Dr. Berry Kiely, the organization’s medical adviser, said.

“The suggestion that an embryo should only enjoy protection rights when implanted in a woman’s womb is arbitrary and ignores the fact that each of us began life as a human embryo," she added.

Kiely called for new legislation in the Irish parliament to protect the right to life of frozen human embryos.

“Whenever the law lacks clarity regarding the most basic right, namely the right to life, it undermines the basis for all other self-evident rights we cherish," she said.

"Separate entirely from the present case, there is need for legislation to protect the human embryo. There is nothing to stop such legislation being brought forward," Kiely said. "It will, however, require political leadership.”

The Irish Bishops Committee for Bioethics said it agreed with the Pro-Life Campaign and opposed the ruling.