Infertility Alert: Sofia Vergara Sued By Her Embryos Putting Infertility Patients At Risk
In the news: Sofia Vergara is sued by her embryos.
That sounds like a headline from a magazine that you would throw in the trash, utterly ridiculous and not worth a second glance.
Except the headline is accurate, even understated.
The sequence of events for this to happen are intricate, complex and very well organized. Ms. Vergara's ex boyfriend, Nick Loeb, originally sued her for the rights to the embryos. That, at least, was straightforward. When that didn't work- when Ms. Vergara was not made to become a "parent" when she chose not to be, at least with Mr. Loeb, an elaborate plot was embarked on instead.
Does elaborate plot sound like a conspiracy theory? Does it sound melodramatic?
Here are the some of the not so simple, and unembellished facts on what it means to be sued by embryos. Then you can decide for yourself whether it's over-the-top to call this an elaborate plot or not.
Sofia Vergara & the Lawsuit: What are the Facts?
- Nick Loeb first sued, then dropped his lawsuit asking for sole "custody" of the embryos.
- A lawsuit was filed, by the embryos "Emma" and "Isabelle" in Louisiana on December 7. Since 1986, Louisiana has "protected" embryos with a law that grants them the status of "juridical person". That status endows them with rights that are virtually identical to a person.
- There is a trustee who has been appointed- James Charbonnet. Little has been said about Mr. Charbonnet. It appears that there had been a trust set up well before this lawsuit was brought in case of it's necessity. Nick Loeb, although apparently not involved in this lawsuit, would likely be awarded the rights to parenthood of the embryos should Ms. Vergara lose rights to the embryos.
- Louisiana has not been involved in any way in the assisted reproductive technology used, or the cryopreservation used with these embryos.
- The 1986 Louisiana law states: " In disputes arising between any parties regarding the in vitro fertilized ovum, the judicial standard for resolving such disputes is to be in the best interest of the in vitro fertilized ovum."
- The term "right to live" is being used. Embryos are being treated as people. Effectively, the personhood act, which has been voted down in many different states, is now being used in Louisiana.
- The lawsuit is proposing that Ms. Vergara be considered an egg donor and therefore stripped of any rights to the embryos. This action would also actually protect Ms. Vergara from any financial responsibility for the embryos should they be transferred to a gestational surrogate so that they can then be born.
- “It’s tenuous, but the fact that they have a trust here adds another layer. From a legal standpoint, it was well thought out. I’m not sure we’ve ever thought of doing that,” Wallace said. Monica Hof Wallace is a professor at Loyola University’s New Orleans College of Law.
What Does This Mean to Those in Infertility Treatment?
Those are just a few of the facts. There's little doubt in many people's mind who are following this case that this is only the beginning of the case and that many facts are yet to be revealed or uncovered. And regardless of how rationally one tries to recount the facts, they are sensational. Here are a few reasons why they could be considered sensational:
- Embryos are not alive. They are groups of cells that are dividing and that often do not continue to do so, never resulting in a viable pregnancy.
- These embryos are cryopreserved (frozen) and are not currently dividing or "growing".
- Many embryos never go on to becoming gestating fetuses or are born as babies.
- Legal contracts were signed in regard to the disposition of the embryos should Ms. Vergara and Mr. Loeb discontinue their partnership. Those legal documents are being completely disregarded by a court in a state that was not involved in any way with the ART (assisted reproductive technology) used to make these embryos. Neither Ms. Vergara nor Mr. Loeb live in Louisiana.
- Infertility patients trying to build their families will be severely crippled by restrictions on embryo production and any legislation that is upheld bestowing "personhood" rights to an embryo.
- Right to live is eerily comparable to right to life. In case we're wondering what the agenda is here and how far reaching this precedent setting lawsuit could be, it seems more than reasonable to assume that setting precedent for embryos to be considered people will dramatically affect how abortion will be treated in our legal system.
- This will affect how miscarriage, therapeutic D & C's (dilation and cutterage), embryos that are discarded or donated to science and embryos that are cryopreserved are considered, severely hampering how patients, suffering from the disease of infertility, can be treated.
What's the Meaning Behind this Lawsuit?
There seems little doubt that this series of lawsuits and actions are well-thought-out and researched. Who the interested parties are outside of Ms. Vergara and Mr. Loeb are not precisely known - they prefer to stay in the background at this point. That there are many people and organizations at work here is supported by how quickly and efficiently the lawsuits have been brought, fought, dropped and picked up elsewhere. There appear to be more than enough evidence to support the statement that this is an attempt to set precedent for embryos being "people".
Many headlines sensationalize the news that is reported in the body of the article. In this case, it's quite the opposite. The headlines barely scratch the surface of what's happening here.
And for those helping people build families, or those trying to build their families, this sensational news feels more like disastrous news.
Big but here. Let's keep in mind, please, that there are many people and organizations fighting and seeking out ways to retain and even advance reproductive rights, particularly when it comes to building families.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.