Missouri Appeals Court Rules Frozen Embryos are Property, Not Persons

Mother files lawsuit for nonpayment of maternity leave
November 22, 2016
Topeka sperm donor not the legal father
November 30, 2016
Show all

Missouri Appeals Court Rules Frozen Embryos are Property, Not Persons

The battle over two frozen embryos was decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals last week. In a contentious dispute involving divorced couple Jalesia McQueen, 44, and Justin Gadberry, 34, McQueen wanted to be able to use the two frozen embryos the couple created, whereas, Gadberry either wanted the embryos given to an infertile couple, donated to research or destroyed.

Gadberry remained adamant that he did not want to be forced into fatherhood with McQueen, something his attorney argued would be a direct violation of his client’s constitutional rights.

Last week, the Missouri Court of Appeals sided with Gadberry and upheld the lower court’s earlier ruling: the frozen embryos were marital property of a special character.

According to the ruling, the frozen embryos will remain within the couple’s joint custody and will continue to be stored until the couple arrives at an agreement regarding their use. Judge Robert M. Clayton III wrote that the award of joint custody, “…subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone.” Judge Clayton continued, “The right of personal privacy extends to intimate activities and decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception and family relationships.”

In a statement following the recent appellate ruling, Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry’s attorney, announced, “I think today’s ruling is a victory for individuals against unjustified government intrusion. We don’t want the government telling when to have children or whether to have children.”

Reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joel Currier, noted that the decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals confirmed that,“…McQueen’s attempt to apply state law defining life as beginning at conception is at odds with U.S. Supreme Court decisions protecting Gadberry’s rights to privacy, to be free from government interference and not to procreate.”

McQueen has already voiced her plans to move forward with an appeal of the decision.

“It’s my offspring. It’s part of me, and what right do the judges or the government have to tell me I cannot have them?” It appears as though she is facing an uphill battle.