New Arizona Bill Focuses on In Vitro Fertilization Embryos

Arizona Family lawIn Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has been a benefit to many couples. The process includes freezing embryos for later use. However, when a couple with waiting embryos splits up, questions arise about who, if anyone, has access to those embryos.

A new bill introduced in Arizona may add strange difficulties to this already complicated situation.

Recent Cases

The new bill comes on the heels of some legal cases that have highlighted the sensitive nature of divorce cases which include IVF concerns. Above the Law notes a few such cases, including that of Ruby Torres here in Arizona. Torres put off having children for a time to focus on her career, but a diagnosis of breast cancer threw complications into her plans. Torres and her then-fiancé, John Joseph Terrell, chose IVF to ensure they had viable embryos if they decided to have children after her treatment.

The treatment was successful, but the relationship was not, and the judge presiding over their divorce had to decide what to do with the embryos. The couple had signed an agreement prohibiting either of them from using the embryos without written permission from the other, but the judge decided on a different course of action. The official ruling was that the seven embryos had to be donated to other couples. In other similar cases, such as Szafranski v. Dunstan in Illinois and Reber v. Reiss in Pennsylvania, the judge instead ruled in favor of the woman having access to her embryos.

Senate Bill 1393

Senate Bill 1393 provides guidelines for the future of embryos in cases like those described above. In cases where one half of the couple wants the embryos but the other does not, they would simply be awarded to the one that wants them. However, complications arise when both individuals want the embryos. The bill would direct judges to award the embryos to the individual who “provides the best chance for the in vitro human embryos to develop to birth.”

It does not, however, give any indication on what system the judge should use in making this determination, which raises a number of questions about what the court will consider “the best chance” for those embryos. One could raise concerns that the court will use financial status, or gender, or any number of other determining factors when they have no stated criteria.

As lawyers who practice family and divorce law, we will continue to monitor the progress of the bill and help families adjust to any complications this raises. If you have any questions about your divorce or the status of embryos produced through IVF, contact us today for answers.

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