Can you really “own” an embryo?

So, you may have heard about what’s happening in the States at the moment with Sofia Vergara — she’s an actress from Modern Family — and her ex, a guy called Nick Loeb. Basically, as far as I can work out, in 2013, they had IVF, and created two embryos which they planned to implant in a surrogate, but subsequently froze. The couple split up and, despite having signed something that said that the embryos could only be used if both of them agreed to it, he’s now trying to bring a legal case against her so that he can use the embryos. She doesn’t want him to.

When people first started talking about this, I was contacted by the Telegraph to see if I wanted to comment on it, and I wrote down a load of random thoughts and told the journalist to use them if they were useful, and this was the piece that came out of it. But now the whole thing has reared its head again because the New York Times gave Loeb the opportunity to put his point across in an editorial. Seriously, I mean fucking SERIOUSLY? Well a) what was the New York Times thinking? and b) I think we can all conclude that Sofia Vergara is WELL out of this one.

Although, the whole thing — to me — seems a bit weird from the off. You’re in love with someone, in a relationship and you decide you want to have kids, so you have IVF — fine, there may be many reasons you have IVF — and rather than having the embryos implanted back in to you, you decide to have them implanted into a surrogate — er, OK, to me that seems a bit weird, a bit Hollywood, but maybe there was a very good medical reason why they wanted to use a surrogate. But then you DON’T use a surrogate, and you split up, leaving those two frozen embryos hanging out in a freezer somewhere.

I don’t think it’s weird to assume that those embryos are not going to be used. Especially given that you’ve both signed something saying that they can’t be unless you both agree. So if you’re the guy — the guy who, let’s face it DOESN’T HAVE THE SAME AGE-RELATED REPRODUCTIVE RESTRICTIONS AS A WOMAN. And, who by his own admission has said he has every intention of having a family of his own with someone else — why the arsing fuck would you want to have your ex’s children?

Maybe it makes me a hypocrite, but if it was the other way round, I’d kind of understand it. If Sofia, who is 42, thought those embryos represented her last chance to have a biological child of her own, I could kind of understand her deciding that having her ex’s child was preferable to not having a biological child of her own. But that’s not the case here. So, perhaps unfairly, I’m concluding that this guy is just being a dick. And the worst dick of all, he’s being an ex-shaming, pro-life dick. (Actually I’m sure there are worse dicks than that, but that’s a pretty bad type of dick, right?)

The emotive language used in the editorial — “[This has] nothing to do with the rights over one’s own body, and everything to do with a parent’s right to protect the life of his or her unborn child”… “keeping [the embryos] frozen forever is tantamount to killing them” — is calculated. It’s all about proving that he is the better man, that he’s been wronged, and I really rail against it. But then, maybe that’s because I’ve never seen eggs, or embryos, as unborn children. Because I’m not religious and I don’t think about things in that way.

I do know that if someone decided to splash details of my fertility/our relationship in a newspaper, I’d be fucking raging. (Although if it was my ex, I think as well as being raging, I’d be mightily relieved that we were no longer together.) I suppose, if anything, this has made me grateful that for all that I’ve had to go through the whole egg-freezing thing on my own, I know that I will never have to have this argument about ownership with anyone. Even if I’d chosen to create embryos with an anonymous donor, I wouldn’t have had to have this argument as donors have no rights/responsibilities.

But I suppose it has also made me think — as I touched on in the Telegraph piece — about whether, if I got into a serious relationship where we were considering having children, I’d update the paperwork that I signed that said that in the event of my death my frozen eggs should be used for research or destroyed. Because well, I dunno, because I think of this case, and I think of having a legacy to leave even if I wasn’t around to see it, and I think of what might happen if we had a child and then I died, and my other half wanted our child to have a biological sibling… And as I told the Telegraph journalist, the idea that I would show my commitment to someone by signing a form that says that in the event of my death, they get to do what they want with my frozen eggs seems quite fucked up. But, welcome to the 21st century. (And let’s all thank fuck we’re neither Sofia Vergara or Nick Loeb.)


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