California Judge: Divorced Couple’s Embryos Must Be Destroyed

Divorced Couple's Embryos Must Be Destroyed
A California judge ruled Wednesday a 46-year-old woman must abide by an agreement and destroy frozen embryos made with her ex-husband. Photo from Woo Suk Hwang/Seoul National University

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 19 (UPI) ─ A California judge ruled a Bay-Area anesthesiologist must abide by an agreement to destroy frozen embryos made with her ex-husband, even though she considers them her last, best chance to have a biological child.

Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo, in an 83-page decision, upheld a consent form from the fertility clinic the couple signed when they got married in 2010. The paperwork said the embryos would be destroyed if the couple divorced.

They divorced in 2013. Mimi Lee, 46, argued breast cancer treatments made it difficult for her to become pregnant with her own genetic material, so the embryos were her last chance to have a genetically related child. Her ex-husband Stephen Findley said they should be destroyed to abide by the contract and worried she would use any children to take financial advantage of him.

The court decided the consent agreement was a binding contract, the first such ruling in the state.

“Decisions about family and children are often difficult, and can be wrenching when they become disputes,” Massullo wrote. “It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles.”

In her decision, the judge said Findley “should be free from court-compelled fatherhood and the attendant uncertainties it would bring.” The judge declined to rule on Lee’s assertion she had a constitutional right to procreate, but said Lee didn’t have a right to procreate with Findley.

Lee said she was disappointed with the judge’s decision and may appeal.


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