The Missouri legislature is currently considering a new definition of human life. A bill is being debated which, if enacted, would extend the definition of human life to include frozen embryos. This is done to override the judicial rulings that treat frozen embryos as property for purposes of divorce and post-divorce disputes. If enacted, this would be the first state in the country to expand the definition of human life this far.
Expanding the definition of human life entails a whole host of potential legal issues.
First, what happens to the frozen embryos after the parents die? Must the clinic keep them “alive” forever? This may seem like a trivial problem but there are over 600,000 frozen embryos kept in the United States. In fact, a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that from 2006-2010 nearly 7 million women used infertility services.
Second, who continues to pay to maintain the embryos? Whether the court defines these as property or human life, it will have huge financial and legal implications. For example, if it is defined as property, then the spouse that wins control over them pays to maintain them. However, if it is human life, then it is possible that one spouse could be forced to pay to maintain the embryos for years or decades.
Third, what if the embryos are allowed to gestate after divorce? Will the ex-partner owe child support? These issues and more will need to be settled if this law is enacted.
Child custody disputes can be draining. If you are considering divorce and you have frozen embryos, then you may want to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. This area of law is unsettled and there are many legal issues to consider including what to do with the embryos, what can you do with them and who pays for the maintenance of the embryos. These issues and more will need to be settled and an attorney can help you.