One of the most surreal moments of my IVF journey happened weeks before I started my cycle medication. I had to figure out what I wanted to happen to my embryos in the event of my death. Going through IVF as a single woman and using donor sperm, I had to make all of the decisions by myself. It’s such a bizarre and abstract question to consider. I didn’t even know if I would be successful at making ANY embryos, and yet before my doctor and clinic would proceed with anything, the fate of hypothetical embryos was something I had to decide.
I am guessing it’s feeling pretty surreal right now for actress Sofia Vergara, as she is in the middle of a lawsuit involving two embryos she created with her ex Nick Loeb. When the couple were engaged, they were actively trying to conceive via IVF and a surrogate. Now that the couple are no longer together, the embryos are essentially in a custody battle. Loeb is suing to prevent Vergara from destroying the embryos.
According to documents obtained by In Touch, “The center provided forms to the couple for a decision about what would happen in the event of death — but not separation. Because of this, he is also suing the center to prevent them from destroying the embryos.”
It’s unclear what Loeb’s plans would be for the embryos if he is successful in preventing them from being destroyed. The fertility center the couple used did have a very detailed medical consent form that outlined that, “One person cannot use the Cryopreserved Material to create a child (whether or not he or she intends to rear the child) without explicit written consent of the other person (either by notary or witnessed by ART Physician staff member or ART staff).”
In other words, if Loeb’s plan was to attempt to create a child with these embryos, he would have to get Vergara’s written consent.
Attorney Susan L. Pollet has written about some of the legal issues that arise for embryos after divorce:
“The main issues that courts have grappled with are whether a court should enforce a couple’s pre-conception agreement; whether a person can be forced to be a parent against his or her wishes; and whether one party’s interest in becoming a parent outweighs the other party’s interest in not becoming a parent.”
This is emotional stuff. Going through infertility treatments and the process of trying to have a child can be brutal on a couple. One of the sad things to come out of these court documents is the revelation that Vergara and Loeb had attempted to conceive twice via surrogate and failed. A Danish study from 2014 found that infertile couples are three times more likely to divorce.
Having both your infertility struggles and your failed relationship struggles splashed on the news has got to be rough, but sources close to Vergara say the actress is “vowing to fight Loeb’s attempts to ‘drag her name through the mud.’”
When I signed my IVF medical documents, I was a little bit emotional. Just thinking about creating an overflow of embryos seemed, well, inconceivable. Many women and families, even those who consider themselves pro-choice, grapple with the concept of destroying an embryo. Every clinic will have different options, but there ARE more choices that can be made than people realize.
Here are some options, as explained by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association:
- Use for Reproduction
You can keep the embryos for future attempts at pregnancy. But you should plan for some expenses as the fertility clinic charges a storage fee even between IVF cycles.
- Donate to Research
If your fertility clinic has a partnership with a research facility you can donate your embryos to various types of medical and scientific research.
- Donate to Another Couple
You can choose to donate your embryos to an infertile couple in hopes that they have a baby.
- Freeze Indefinitely
Some patients choose to store their embryos with their clinic indefinitely. This can be a costly option as the clinics will charge either per month or per year for storage. Sometimes patients feel this is their only choice because they are unaware of the other options.
- Thaw and Discard
The embryos are taken out of storage by the clinic, thawed in the lab, and at that point they stop growing and dividing.
- Perform a Disposal Ceremony
You can take the embryos from the fertility clinic and dispose of them as you see fit, such as having a personal ceremony or creating a special moment to come to closure regarding the embryos.
- Receive a Compassionate Transfer
You can talk to your doctor about transferring your embryos at a time in your cycle when there is no chance for you to become pregnant. Your body will take care of the embryos naturally.
Sofia Vergara, and every woman and couple undergoing treatment, deserve to be able to make decisions about embryos and then not have those decisions rehashed and questioned. Vergara has moved on from from her ex and is engaged to actor Joe Manganiello. I honestly don’t get what Loeb gains by filing this lawsuit, but he’s certainly educated many people on the ethics involved with embryos.More On