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TV star in dispute over frozen embryos

05 May 2015

By Dr Victoria Burchell

Appeared in BioNews 800

The ex-fiancé of Sofía Vergara, star of US TV show Modern Family, is suing her for custody of their frozen embryos.

Nick Loeb filed the suit using pseudonyms, but has now written an editorial on the matter in the New York Times under the headline: 'Our frozen embryos have a right to life'.

The couple underwent IVF in 2013 with the intention of using a surrogate. After one embryo failed to implant and a further surrogate pregnancy resulted in miscarriage, two remaining embryos were frozen. The two split in May 2014 and Loeb asked to keep the embryos, offering to pay for all surrogacy expenses, raise the children himself and have Vergara declared an egg donor.

Vergara, who is now engaged to Joe Manganiello, declined and has stated through her lawyer that she is 'content to leave the embryos frozen indefinitely'. Loeb argues that this is 'tantamount to killing them'.

'Many have asked me: Why not just move on and have a family of your own? I have every intention of doing so. But that doesn't mean I should let the two lives I have already created be destroyed or sit in a freezer until the end of time,' he wrote.

Speaking to the Guardian, Susan Crockin, a US lawyer specialising in reproductive technology law, expressed surprise at how Loeb, who is Catholic, appeared to be driven by the right-to-life argument.

'He has other, far easier and much less legally strained and entangled ways to be a father, so this seems to be much more of a philosophically or religiously driven position than a parenting one,' said Crockin.

She noted that these cases raise the question of whether a decision made by a couple can be bound to the individual.

'There are some courts that would say you made that decision when you made the embryos: "You very thoughtfully, deliberately decided to create embryos, and it was a lot more thoughtful than getting someone pregnant in the backseat of the car and that decision is one we're going to hold you to,''' she said.

Both Loeb and Vergara signed an agreement that any embryos could be brought to term only with both parties' consent. He is now asking to have this voided.

In the US, most embryonic custody cases have sided against the claimant. However, there have been two cases of women with cancer being granted custody of their embryos.

In the UK, stricter guidelines mean that the situation would be more clear cut. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, if one party wishes to withdraw consent they have to write to the fertility clinic. If the other party agrees, the embryos are destroyed. If not, the two parties have 12 months to resolve the legal issue before the embryos are destroyed.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

04 September 2017 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A Louisiana court has ruled that it has no jurisdiction over the frozen embryo dispute between actor Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiance Nick Loeb, in a move that may end the two-year legal saga between the couple...
12 December 2016 - by Chee Hoe Low 
Star of the US TV show 'Modern Family', Sofia Vergara, is facing a lawsuit in the state of Louisiana that lists her own frozen embryos among the plaintiffs...
14 March 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a man's appeal against a ruling that gave his ex-partner a right to use embryos the couple had created together...
30 November 2015 - by Cait McDonagh 
An appeals court in Pennsylvania, USA, has ruled that a woman is to remain the legal parent of a child born through surrogacy, despite separating from her husband before the child was born...
23 November 2015 - by Dr Julia Hill 
A San Francisco judge has ruled that the frozen embryos of a divorced couple should be destroyed, despite the protests of the ex-wife...

10 November 2014 - by Ari Haque 
Actor Jason Patric has been declared legal parent after a two-year long legal challenge to a ruling that declared him simply a sperm donor for his son...
28 May 2014 - by Patricia Cassidy 
An Illinois county court has granted a woman control over embryos created with her ex-boyfriend's sperm, despite his objection to their use....
10 March 2014 - by Chee Hoe Low 
A widow has won a legal battle to keep her late husband's sperm preserved for future use...
30 September 2013 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A woman in the USA is embroiled in a legal battle with her former partner over the use of cryopreserved embryos...
21 January 2013 - by Cait McDonagh 
A man has been ordered to pay child support to his ex-wife for two children conceived through a sperm donor and born during the marriage....

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