Embryos, the Legislature and the Courts

March 6, 2018 by  

In Vitro Fertilization – IVF – is a growing industry and many couples struggling with infertility are using it as a remedy.  Some couples, like Ruby Torres and her husband, for a variety of reasons, create embryos years before they are ready to bring them to birth.  In the Torres’ case, before they were ready to use them,  the couple divorced and they – and their embryos – ended up before the Courts in a dispute over who held their future.  Here’s their story and why SB 1393 was ‘born’.  

Ruby Torres was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at age 33. She was given one month to delay chemo so that she could create embryos with her husband.  In 2016, after 7 years of marriage, Ruby was assaulted by her husband and moved out of their home. When they began divorce proceedings, she learned that there is no case law in the state of Arizona that deals with the disposition of frozen embryos. Ruby had hoped that because the judge said she would treat the embryos as property, that would mean she would get some of the embryos and would have the opportunity to have children.

When the divorce decree was entered in August, 2017, Ruby learned that the Court ordered the embryos to be donated to a third party. Ruby is now in menopause; her ovarian function is zero; she will never be able to undergo an IVF procedure that is successful. She will have to undergo a full hysterectomy before age 40 and has a very limited timeframe to be able to carry her frozen embryos to live birth.

Now, three years post treatment, she is medically cleared but due to the court order, she is unable legally to carry her child.  One of the biggest issues for her ex-husband is that he might have to pay child support, even though Ruby is able to support herself and a child for any future needs.  Her right to have her frozen embryos carried to live births has been denied by the courts.

There will be children out there, if someone selects her embryos, that Ruby will never be able to meet, care for, and will never be able to know her genetic history. If she wishes to receive a donated embryo, the cost will be $10,000-$20,000 – but she already has 7 of her own biological embryos.

Ruby has appealed the judge’s decision to the AZ Court of Appeals.  My hope is that this bill will pass and the appellate court will be persuaded to award Ruby her embryos.

Whether or not Ruby ultimately is awarded her right to parent her embryos, passage of SB 1393 will provide for future parents who seek to bring their embryos to birth.

Read  how SB 1393 addresses a Parental Right to Embryos here.




3 Responses to “Embryos, the Legislature and the Courts”
  1. Jane Bermijo says:

    Personally, I have a difficult time with passing laws that affect one person. The court ruled. Let it stand.

    • nancy_barto says:

      Hi Jane, Thank you for bringing that point up. I too would struggle with passing any law that only affects one person. In fact, that is inappropriate. This case is not an isolated one, however, and similar scenarios will be more an more common as couples increasingly resort to IVF. Also, importantly, the courts specifically asked for guidance from the Legislature in the case of Ruby Torres as this is a gray area in law. They wisely recognized that it was not the court’s role to make law, but the Legislature’s so that is what SB 1393 is meant to do when there is a dispute about a couple’s embryos during a divorce proceeding.

  2. Audrey says:

    Vote yes on SB 1393

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