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New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Against Father of Frozen Embryos

Aired August 14, 2001 - 10:35   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We were just getting late-breaking word right now on a Supreme Court decision -- the State Supreme Court of New Jersey, we should say -- a decision there that seems as though it's a snatch from last week's headlines. This is a case of a divorced couple now who are battling over the fate of some frozen embryos.

Let's bring in our Maria Hinojosa, who's been following this story for us -- Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, this is at least the third time in the country when a court makes a unanimous decision in favor of having embryos destroyed.

In this particular case, this was a New Jersey couple, that, when they were married, were trying to have a child and had embryos created. They ended up having a child on their own and then divorced. This supreme court decision, which was unanimous, 7-0, said that the mother, who wanted to have these embryos destroyed after her divorce from her husband, was in fact able to do that. The husband wanted to keep the embryos in place so that perhaps his sister could have these children.

Now, we have reaction from the father's lawyer. As far as we know, both the father and mother, these divorced couple, do not know about this decision; there has been a gag order placed. The lawyer for the father in this case said that the embryos aren't life, that they're not property, that they're not furniture, that the reason that they did this, this particular couple, was to have children. They believe it's not ethical and it's moral. He is a Catholic person.

Now, there have been three other -- well, with this case, there's a total of three decisions. First in Tennessee in 1992, in New York in 1998, a state court of appeals also ruled in this same manner, and today in New Jersey in 2001. So pretty much across the board.

The decision is that when the couple divorces and there are frozen embryos leftover, the decision so far have been to destroy those embryos -- Leon.

HARRIS: And, Maria, I'm not sure how much of this you've been able to digest, but does it -- it does not matter, then, if it's the mother in each case who's been asking for the destruction versus the father? Whether it's -- either side does not matter, the cases have all come down just to this destroying them and getting rid of the entire issue?

HINOJOSA: You're exactly right. It does not matter whether it's the mother or the father that is asking for the embryos to be destroyed. In this particular case in New Jersey, the mother of the asking for the embryos, the frozen embryos, to be destroyed.

In the New York case in 1998, it was the father that was asking embryos to be destroyed.

So it doesn't matter if it's a mother or the father, the courts are saying that if there's a dispute, if the parents have divorced, and there are frozen embryos leftover that -- and one of the parents wants these embryos to be destroyed, that they should be destroyed.

HARRIS: Boy, interesting, interesting.

Maria Hinojosa in New York, thank you very much digesting that so quickly and bringing it us. We appreciate that.

HINOJOSA: Thank you.

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