Natallie Evans, one of two British women who was legally prevented from using embryos kept in frozen storage by the withdrawal of consent by her ex-partner, has started her appeal. In the latest stage of her continued fight to have her own biologically-related child, she is asking the UK's Court of Appeal to reverse an earlier decision that the embryos must be destroyed.
Last September, the UK High Court ruled against Natallie Evans and another woman, Lorraine Hadley, who had sought to use their embryos against a requirement of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, which stipulates that consent from both parties is needed for continued storage or use of frozen embryos. Lorraine Hadley later decided not to continue with her case, apparently due to the withdrawal of her legal aid.
In October, Ms Evans asked the Court of Appeal to consider the merits of her application and to decide whether or not to give her permission to appeal. Three Court of Appeal judges agreed in January 2004 that her case raises important legal issues and so warrants a full rehearing.
Ms Evans is appealing the High Court decision of Mr Justice Wall on five grounds: first, that her former fiancé had consented to treatment together with her and intended for her to carry the embryos created with his sperm. Secondly, that the 1990 Act is wrong, if it allows consent to be withdrawn after the embryos have been created. Thirdly, that in any event, it is too late for consent to be withdrawn as, technically, the embryos have already been 'used' as part of Ms Evans' treatment. Fourthly, that she has a right to use the embryos as part of her human right to privacy and family life, guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Lastly, the law, by granting a 'male veto' over the use of the embryos, discriminates against her in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR. Robin Tolson QC, the barrister representing her, also told the court that if her husband had 'been entirely truthful' with her, 'their relationship would have ended before her ovaries were removed and she would have had treatment as a single woman'.
The appeal is being heard by Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Justice Sedley and Lady Justice Arden. Lord Thorpe has announced that the judgement will be reserved until the end of April, while the three judges formulate their decision.