ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Court of Appeals is being asked to decide whether a divorced St. Louis County couple's two frozen embryos are property or human beings with constitutional rights.
Jalesia McQueen, 44, is suing to be able to use the embryos, which have been stored for six years, to have more children. Her ex-husband, Justin Gadberry, 34, doesn't want to have any more children with McQueen and doesn't believe he should be required to reproduce.
The two signed an agreement in 2010 that would give McQueen the embryos if they divorced, but Gadberry sought to prevent that from happening when the pair did split. St. Louis County Family Court Commissioner Victoria McKee ruled in 2015 that the embryos were "marital property" and gave joint custody to the estranged couple, which required McQueen and Gadberry to agree on the embryos' future use.
Attorneys argued the case Tuesday before the Missouri Court of Appeals, which is not expected to rule for months, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/285DIzP ).
McQueen's appeal argues that Missouri law defines embryos as humans created at conception, giving her embryos a right to life. She also claims the lower court's decision improperly invalidated her right to them under the pre-divorce agreement. She is being supported by a conservative public interest law firm and groups such as Missouri Right to Life, which filed briefs with the appeals court.
Gadberry's lawyer, Tim Schlesinger, said Wednesday that giving the embryos to McQueen would violate his client's right not to reproduce. He said Gadberry would be willing to donate the embryos for research or to an infertile couple or have the embryos destroyed. He also argued that "forced procreation" is unconstitutional and could have a "dramatic chilling effect" on people seeking fertility treatments.
McQueen and Gadberry have 8-year-old twins from in vitro fertilization, and she has a 2-year-old son with another man.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com