AUSTIN, Texas – She got the house and he got the Honda. The problem in Augusta and Randy Roman's divorce came over the little things -- the really little things. Frozen embryos that they once hoped would bring them children.
Augusta Roman wants to keep the embryos and try to have a baby. Randy Roman wants them destroyed, or at least kept frozen.
The case of Roman vs. Roman now before the Texas Supreme Court pits her right to have children using the embryos against his right not to have children.
"These are my children," said Augusta, 45. "This is my last chance at being a biological mom."
A telephone number for Randy Roman could not be located, and his attorney did not return phone messages left at his office. In a statement of principles in his court filing, Randy Roman says he believes in a traditional nuclear family, and that the embryos were meant for use only within the marriage.
"They were not created to be used in such a way that simply limits me to being a sperm donor, likewise they are not created to be used against my wishes," the statement reads.
The suburban Houston couple -- she a nurse and he a NASA contractor -- met in 1996 and were married within six months.
They agreed to wait at least two years to have children. When they finally tried, she got pregnant but miscarried. Unable to get pregnant again, the couple went to a fertility clinic.
Eggs were extracted and fertilized with Randy's sperm. The night before the eggs were to be implanted in April 2002, he shocked her by announcing he couldn't go through with it and listing his complaints about the marriage, Augusta said.
"He was telling me I was hostile to God and that he had to monitor my soul," she said. "That was traumatic. It came out of nowhere. It sounded crazy to me that he's responsible for my soul."
They decided to freeze the embryos while they tried to sort things out, but soon the divorce and court battle ensued.
A Houston trial court ordered the embryos turned over to Augusta. Randy appealed and won. The case is now before the state Supreme Court, but arguments have not yet been scheduled.
A key piece of evidence is a consent form both signed on March 27, 2002, that said the embryos would be discarded in the case of divorce.
Randy argues the form is binding. Augusta's attorney, Becky Reitz, says Augusta signed it believing she would get to try embryo implantation at least once.
So far, six states and the European Court of Human Rights have ruled in similar embryo custody battles. They have generally upheld the rights of the ex-spouse who does not want to procreate, said David Meyer, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert in family and constitutional law.
But because such issues are still relatively new, a court may find a way to rule for the person who wants the child. "The law is really still developing," Meyer said.
Randy argues that his ex-wife could use donor eggs or adopt if she wants children. And while Augusta has agreed that she would raise the children without him, he has said he could not knowingly ignore his offspring.
A court order to discard the embryos would violate Augusta's moral beliefs. To her, it would be the same as the state forcing her to have an abortion.
"If I was pregnant with these embryos, no one should come and say to me abort them," Augusta said. "There is no difference between embryos inside the womb and outside the womb. I'm already pregnant. It's just implanting.
"It will never be a symbolic fight for me," Augusta said. "I'm praying the courts won't destroy my future children."