The Perils of Assisted Reproductive Technology #7

Frozen pre-embryos: Life or ‘marital property’? Mo. court decides tough custody case.

In the fall of 2005, Jalesia McQueen’s then-husband, Justin Gadberry, was deployed to Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army.

The couple had been married just two months, but before he left, they discussed having children and the challenges that might prevent it — his deployment and her age, mid-30s and a decade his senior. Like many military couples, the two discussed their fertility options and decided to freeze Gadberry’s semen.

In the year that followed, while Gadberry was engaged overseas in combat missions, his wife made a proposal: How about in vitro fertilization?

They could use his frozen sperm, already preserved back home in Missouri, to fertilize her eggs. By April 2007, the couple had made four embryos. Two were implanted in McQueen’s uterus and in November 2007 she gave birth to twin boys.

The other two embryos were frozen and stored at a cryobank facility, where they would remain pre-embryos, the term for an embryo yet to be implanted.

Six years later, after a lengthy separation, the couple decided to divorce.

They split their property amicably and disputed nothing during divorce proceedings — except for the frozen pre-embryos.

The disagreement escalated to a trial, once again looping the courts into the fiercely disputed question of when exactly life begins and what rights, if any, should be given to an artificially created embryo, a legal issue that is being debated in courtrooms across the country. . . .

In it, McQueen, the ex-wife, argued that the pre-embryos, under a Missouri law that states life begins at conception, are “human beings” and “unborn children” and should be treated as such.

While I agree that life begins at conception, the problem in our culture is that unborn children do not have a legal right to life. If you can legally abort a fetus, you can legally destroy an embryo. If McQueen had thought through a pro-life position she should have never agreed to IVF.

The ex-husband claimed they were weren’t human beings — and that forcing him to procreate with his ex-wife would be a violation of his constitutional rights, forcing him to have children he doesn’t want.

As is usual in such stories, someone in the story doesn’t know that the embryos are children.

The trial court agreed with the ex-husband, ruling the pre-embryos were “marital property of a special character” and assigned the pair joint custody. The embryos could not be used, the trial court ruled, without the consent of both McQueen and Gadberry. . . .

Note that two human beings have been declared property. This isn’t surprising since killing the unborn is defended on the grounds that the unborn are not persons. This decision merely makes explicit what much of our culture believes implicitly: an unborn human being is property. As property, the unborn human can be bought, sold, and destroyed.

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