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Controversial Arizona Law Might Give Frozen Embryos to Spouses Who Want a Baby After They’re Divorced

The law could stables a new precedent for giving embryos human status.


A new Arizona law that went into effect at the beginning of July would require the courts to turn over frozen embryos to the person who plans to have children even after a couple has gotten divorced. Though on one level the law would give people a right to embryos that were made with their DNA, on the other hand, it would also mean that some people who have no interest in being a parent could be forced to do so against their will.

While the law does say that the parent who is not given the embryos “has no parental responsibilities… and no right, obligation or interest with respect to” the future child, that hasn’t stopped some from pushing back against the law.

“You are hoping to move on and you’ve got an ex who is essentially asking you to impregnate them and have this lingering lifelong tie with them,” Claudia Work, an attorney currently representing an Arizona man named John Terrell whose ex-wife hopes to use the embryos made with his sperm to have a child, told CBS News.

Work is making a more emotional argument against her client’s ex-wife using the embryos. While Terrell would have no monetary responsibility to the child, Work is arguing that it’s not fair for her client to become an “emotional parent.”

“it’s virtually impossible for a person to separate themselves emotionally from the fact that they know their ex has had a child that is biologically, genetically theirs,” she said.

The law has already gone into full effect, but can’t be applied retroactively, so in theory, it shouldn’t affect Work’s case. But, beyond the outcome of this case, some worry that Arizona may be trying to establish a precedent for fetuses having the right to life, which naturally worries some pro-choice advocates. The Arizona ruling is especially uncanny given that in most states, embryos can’t be brought to term without the consent of both parties involved. Given that most rulings on cases like this are in conflict with one another, the particular suit between Terrell and his ex-wife could make it to the Supreme Court.