Arizona Supreme Court: Divorced Woman Can't Use Frozen Embryos

By Greg Hahne
Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 8:44pm
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2020 - 10:56am
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The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday a woman will not be allowed to use her frozen embryos to have a baby after her ex-husband objected.

The court’s ruling is based on the couple’s signed contract with a fertility clinic stating both parties must agree to implantation if they separate or divorce. Otherwise, the embryos must be donated.

In 2014, Ruby Torres froze her embryos before cancer treatment. The couple divorced three years later, and her ex-husband said he didn’t want to have children with her and wanted the embryos donated.

The eggs will be donated under the terms of the original contract. 

“We’re disappointed of course, but the Supreme Court says what the law is so we have to abide by it,” said Stanley Murray, Torres' lawyer.

Murray said he hasn't yet spoken to Torres, but said that the reversal of the Appeals Court victory would be devastating.

He had argued that the contract was ambiguous and the lower courts agreed, stepping in to apply a balancing test.

“Everybody else had different interpretations of the contract, but both the trial court and the Court of Appeals were on the same page as far as the contract doesn’t apply here, it doesn’t cover this situation, so we have to apply the balancing of interests test," Murray said. "But the Supreme Court said, ‘No, the contract does cover this.’"

The Arizona Legislature changed the law in 2018 in response to Torres' case. The law now allows a former spouse to use the embryos against their former partner's wishes, but relieves the ex-spouse of parental responsibilities like child support. The change is not retroactive and therefore does not apply to Torres' case.

The change was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that lobbies for religious freedom and anti-abortion policies.

“I’m heartbroken for Ruby Torres today,” Cathi Herrod, the group's president, said in a statement. “It’s a sad day that she will not be able to bring her children to birth and raise them as she so desired.”

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