Court Rules on Embryos in Divorce Case, but Skirts Big Question

Connecticut's highest court says they can be destroyed, doesn't weigh in on when life begins
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2019 5:30 PM CDT
Court Rules on Frozen Embryos in Center of Divorce Case
This Aug. 8, 2008 file photo, shows embryos being placed onto a CryoLeaf ready for instant freezing using the vitrification process.   (Ben Birchall/PA via AP, File)

Timothy Goodwin and Jessica Bilbao married in 2011 and quickly began the process of in vitro fertilization. They had a daughter together in 2013, and had several more frozen embryos cryogenically stored after signing an agreement stating that if they divorced, the embryos would be destroyed. Divorce they did in 2015, sparking a legal battle over the embryos that Connecticut's highest court ended Wednesday, the AP reports. Goodwin does not want the embryos destroyed, and a lower court had found the contract unenforceable, but it awarded the embryos to Bilbao after finding her claim to them was stronger, the Hartford Courant reports. The state Supreme Court reversed that finding, ruling the contract is indeed enforceable and that the embryos amount to marital property and can be destroyed.

Goodwin had argued that "no one has the right to destroy what we had planned until [the couple's separation] to be a potential son." He wanted the embryos preserved in case the couple reconciled, or donated to another couple, the Courant reported in an earlier article. Goodwin also argued the embryos were human lives and thus could not be the subject of the type of contract he and Bilbao signed, but though the court ruled against him, it skirted the larger question of when life begins. The court, which referred to the embryos as "pre-embryos" throughout its ruling due to the fact that they had not yet been implanted in a uterus, said in its ruling that it would "leave for another day" the question of what should occur in a similar circumstance in the absence of such a contract. (One woman in a similar case won the right to use the embryos, while another was denied the chance to do so.)

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