A recent case in a Pennsylvania court held the lives of thirteen little human embryos in its hand. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Andrea Lynn Reiss and her husband Bret Howard Reber underwent IVF. The doctors told Ms. Reiss that she would be unfertile after the cancer treatment and so they wanted insurance against future infertility and they created 13 embryos and froze them.
Ms. Reiss completed her treatment but Mr. Reber filed for divorce. Ms. Reiss, claiming she was now infertile, wanted custody of the embryos. Mr. Reber wanted them destroyed.
The court decided for Ms. Reiss and gave her custody of the embryos saying, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that:
“Because Wife cannot achieve genetic parenthood otherwise, we conclude that Wife’s interest in biological procreation through the use of these pre-embryos outweighs Husband’s professed interest against procreation.”
Ignoring the fact that there is no such thing as a “pre-embryo”, this decision is a departure from court cases in other states where the courts have decided the other way. A court in Tennessee said that unwanted parenthood would be the greater burden and ordered the embryos destroyed. Another court in Massachusetts said it “would not enforce an agreement that would compel one donor to become a parent against his or her will.”