Sofia Vergara, star of the US TV show 'Modern Family', is facing a lawsuit in the state of Louisiana that lists her own frozen embryos among the plaintiffs.
The right-to-life lawsuit was filed by James Charbonnet, who is included as a plaintiff alongside 'Emma' and 'Isabella', the names given to two frozen embryos created by Vergara and her former fiancé, Nick Loeb, who is seeking to prevent their destruction. Fertilised eggs are regarded as 'juridical (or legal) persons' in the state.
The lawsuit also claims that by not being born, both embryos have been deprived of an inheritance from a trust created for them by Loeb. Charbonnet is identified in the lawsuit as a trustee of the Emma and Isabella Louisiana Trust. The lawsuit reads: 'Emma and Isabella seek that they be entrusted to their natural father Loeb, who is willing and desirous that they be born.'
Vergara and Loeb created a total of five embryos via IVF when they were still together in 2013. When the couple split in May 2014, two embryos remained unused. Loeb claimed that Vergara's refusal to allow the embryos to be brought to term is 'tantamount to killing them'.
Both Vergara and Loeb had earlier signed an agreement stating that neither party could use the embryos without the consent of the other. Loeb now argues that the contract did not stipulate what should happen if Loeb and Vergara were to split, and that the contract should be voided as it violated the both the California code and the Louisiana law.
The frozen embryos were kept at an IVF facility in California, but Loeb claimed that the Louisiana courts have jurisdiction over the dispute as Vergara and Loeb ended their relationship in the state, and the inheritance trust was also created in the state. Louisiana has some of the strictest 'pro-life' laws in the US.
Following the couple's split in 2014, Loeb filed a lawsuit for custody of the embryos (reported in BioNews 800). The California court ruled in favour of Vergara's request to force Loeb to identify two previous lovers who underwent abortions after he impregnated them. Loeb later dropped that lawsuit.
Vergara's lawyer, Fred Silberberg, commented: 'This latest manoeuvre is nothing more than another attempt on the part of Mr Loeb to keep himself in the public eye by keeping himself linked to Ms Vergara.'
He also said that the Louisiana lawsuit is doomed to fail, adding 'that genetic material was created pursuant to a written agreement that required both parties' written consent to attempt to create a pregnancy'.