Missouri court: Man must consent before ex-wife can use their embryos

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ST. LOUIS - It appears a custody battle between a divorced couple will make its way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Jalesia McQueen and Justin Gadberry gave birth to twin boys as a product of in vitro fertilization. Jalesia believes it is her right to use the other frozen eggs to have more children if she wants them, but the Missouri Court of Appeals disagrees.

On Tuesday, the court ruled in favor of Gadberry, who argued he should have the right to decide if he wants to have children with his ex-wife.

The court ruled the embryos are property, not people, and both parties must provide written consent before the embryos can be used.

Jalesia has plans of appealing this case to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Missouri has a statute which says all humans have full legal rights beginning at conception until natural death. Stephen Clark, McQueen's attorney, said Missouri should honor this law passed by the Missouri legislature in the 1980's instead of letting the embryos hang in limbo with no right to be born.

Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry's attorney, said it would be an "extreme psychological and financial burden" on his client if the other two children were to be born. He also said the embryos are not children and his client "should have the right to decide whether and when he becomes a parent."

Clark said McQueen is willing to accept full responsibility of the children if she is allowed to give birth to them. Schlesinger said the two embryos would create an "awkward situation" if they were born because Gadberry and McQueen have joint custody of the couple's twin boys and visits would become complex.

Clark told KOMU 8, "There's no less life in small masses of cells in the embryonic state than there is for you and me in flesh and blood."

Clark said he expects the Missouri Supreme Court process to take about a year, and will consider appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States depending on that ruling.

Both lawyers told KOMU 8 they believe this case will set an important precedent in this area of law.