Woman’s Ex-Husband Wants Their Embryos Destroyed After They Divorce, But They’re “Fully Human”

Bioethics   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 24, 2015   |   4:31PM   |   St. Louis, MO

Jalesia McQueen and her ex-husband Justin Gadberry have two frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization, the Associated Press reports. The couple gave birth to twin boys through in vitro fertilization earlier in their marriage.

After the couple split in 2014, they argued about whether the embryos should be destroyed. McQueen wants to use the embryos to have more children, while Gadberry wants them to be destroyed or donated to research or an infertile couple, the AP reports.

Their case heads to a Missouri appeals court this month after McQueen appealed a decision by a St. Louis trial court. The lower court ruled that the couple jointly owns the two remaining embryos, according to the AP.

Several pro-life groups, including Missouri Right to Life and the Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal firm, have petitioned the court to argue on behalf of the mother for her children.

“Human embryos, no matter how small, are fully human and deserve to be treated as such,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Rita Gitchell. “Currently, the legal precedent dealing with frozen embryos is based on erroneous and misconceived ‘science’ which denies the intrinsic humanity of the human embryos, treats them as mere property, and subjects them to disposition according to the terms of private contracts to which they were neither parties nor participants in the bargaining process.”

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Gitchell called on the courts to recognize the scientific proof that human life begins at fertilization and has its own unique DNA “shared by no other throughout eternity unless there is an identical twin or a clone.”

“The embryo’s basic right to life should go on the scales of justice along with the other unalienable rights to be secured by the government, such as parental rights,” Gitchell added. “The Court cannot weigh a right to procreate or not to procreate, because the right to procreate was already exercised and the embryos are created.”

The Thomas More Society also filed friend of the court briefs in another high-profile case involving embryos created by Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiancee Nick Loeb.

This spring, Loeb filed a lawsuit against Vergara to stop her from destroying the pair of frozen embryos. A source close to Loeb explained that he didn’t want to see the embryos destroyed because he’s always believed that life begins at conception. The couple created the embryos through in vitro fertilization.

“The question posed in these cases has a pivotal, and truly historic, dimension going back to the Dred Scott case,” explained Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society President and Chief Counsel. “In both situations, some humans are belittling and degrading others by disregarding their true scientific status, and denigrating them as if they were merely items of property which could be owned, sold, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of at the unregulated option and whim of others. This is simply and grossly inhumane and must be deemed by civilized folks as both morally and legally unacceptable.”

The disputes between the two couples highlight one of the problems with in vitro fertilization, which is that unused or unwanted embryos are often discarded or destroyed. Unfortunately in 2011, a study in the journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine revealed that 19% of unused embryos are discarded and 3% are donated for scientific research.

Additionally, a technique called “selective reduction” is sometimes used after in vitro fertilization. This is because to increase success rates IVF practitioners often implant more than one embryo in the woman’s uterus in hopes that at least one will take. Then if more embryos than are desired implant, doctors “reduce” the pregnancy down to the desired number.