Judge Decides Frozen Embryos Are Property
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Judge Decides Frozen Embryos Are Property
A divorced couple fighting over frozen embryos caused a judge to look to a horrible law about slaves for direction. Is there any doubt that our nation needs prayer?
From The Christian Post. A Virginia judge cited a 19th-century law about slave ownership in ruling that human embryos can legally be considered property or “chattel.”
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Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard Gardiner issued the preliminary opinion last month in a case involving a divorced couple’s dispute over embryos they stored together. The couple, Honeyhline Heidemann and Jason Heidemann, separated in 2017 and divorced in 2018.
The ex-wife is 45 and infertile due to cancer treatments and wants to use the embryos, while her ex-husband does not.
Jason Heidemann’s lawyers argued that if his ex-wife were to use the embryos, this “would force Mr. Heidemann to procreate against his wishes and therefore violate his constitutional right to procreational autonomy.”
The judge initially sided with the husband and determined that a pre-Civil War law based on “goods or chattels” that involved custody disputes over slaves applied to the couple’s case. However, the judge’s ruling is not final as he has yet to rule on other arguments in the case.
“As there is no prohibition on the sale of human embryos, they may be valued and sold, and thus may be considered goods or chattels,” Gardiner wrote.
As The Associated Press reported, Honeyhline Heidemann’s lawyer, Adam Kronfeld, asked the judge to reconsider. The attorney argued that his client has no other biological options to conceive a child, and the husband would not be under any legal obligations to parent.
Kronfeld noted that the couple signed an agreement in 2018, which already described the embryos as property and stated they would remain in storage until a court ordered otherwise, according to AP.
Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, pointed to the National Embryo Donation Center, which reports that roughly 1 million are frozen in storage in the United States. She noted that “the law and our courts have not settled the matter of what a frozen embryo is.”
“Is it a person, afforded rights, or is it property, decided using contract law?” Lahl asked in a Tuesday statement to The Christian Post.
She cited Jeter v. Mayo Clinic Arizona, a 2005 case involving the Jeter couple who had undergone in vitro fertilization and had their embryos cryopreserved and stored at a clinic. The Jeters alleged that the clinic’s negligence resulted in the destruction of those embryos, including a claim for the recovery for the loss of “irreplaceable property” in their complaint.
As Lahl noted, the case deemed that embryos were “not property” but stated that they should be afforded “varying degrees of special respect dependent on the issues involved.”
“What would be the ‘special respect’ owed to the embryo, and who would decide what that is?” she asked. “This is just another example of where reproductive technologies have moved forward without any serious ethical or legal reflection.”
The Heidemanns’ IVF contract from 2015 did not address what should happen to the stored embryos in the event that one parent died or the pair divorced, according to the opinion letter. While the Heidemenns conceived a daughter through IVF, two embryos from the IVF treatment remain cryopreserved.
Before the couple divorced in November 2018, they executed a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement, and under the subheading “Division of Personal Property,” the Heidemenns acknowledged the frozen embryos belonged to both of them. Pending a court order and future disposition, both parties agreed that neither would remove the embryos from storage and would split the cost of storage.
In April 2019, Honeyhline Heidemann requested her ex-husband’s consent to utilize the embryos to conceive a child, but neither party could reach an agreement. In July 2019, she re-opened the divorce case and filed a Motion to Determine Disposition of Cryopreserved Human Embryos, which was dismissed in May 2020.
She opened a new case in November 2021, requesting that the court award her sole custody of the embryos or “partition the two embryos in kind,” but her ex-husband demurred.
What do you think of this judge’s decision? Share your thoughts and prayers below.
(Used with permission. By Samantha Kamman from The Christian Post. Photo Credit: Canva)
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OH Father God we praise You for Who You are! You said You created us in Your image > therefore each person has tremendous value! Each person is eternal! The utter heinousness of siting a Pre- Civil War, Pre- Emancipation Proclomation is highly Offensive and should be Thrown Out as President Lincoln Abolished slavery, and therefore No One in USA is legally considered to be
” property”/ ” owned”!! Much less to set a legal precident on outlawed, practice is heinousand , reprehensive and should be thrown out!! Father God we need You to lift up righteous judges across the USA that Do have Common Sence!! Work mightily in this divorced couple’s life as well in Jesus Name Amen
Dear Jesus, please, please show this Virginia Judge that human beings are in no way “Property”. In Christs name we ask this because he stated that the servant and the master are on equal footing, and that, the master died for the slave. amen
GOD tells us in HIS WORD that we are not to take up the ways of ungodly nations or people! Freezing embryos is not from GOD! FATHER GOD please help people to know YOU! If they want babies, let them pray! YOU gave Abraham and Sarah a baby when they were 100 years old and 90 years old! Nothing is impossible with YOU FATHER GOD! Since these embryos are here FATHER, YOUR Will alone be done for these embryos and this family in JESUS NAME! Amen!
The fact that humans or any of God’s creatures (animals) would be stuck in limbo not alllowed, by people (who are supposed to care for them) to grow into who He created them to be is heartbreaking! Why does humanity do such things? Does anyone ever think of the spirit and soul inside of that “embryo” which is a human being? What happens to that person or animal while it’s frozen? Does it change the DNA or health of them if they ever do get to develop fully? This makes me think of Genesis 6. ANY altering to God’s design of conception or how to get there, or DNA is NOT from God! Don’t freeze your babies, that’s NOT love! Sometimes people want children so bad they will go to extremes to get them but that’s where the devil is there to offer a “solution” and anything that comes from him is NOT good. Love doesn’t go outside of God’s design to get something. Love doesn’t freeze babies! It lays the desire down on the alter and if God decides to, He will make a way, otherwise there is adoption! I can’t imagine how sad God must be to see His children stuck in limbo in a freezer and people fighting over whether to let them live or throw them in the trash! FATHER GOD, we NEED help! I ask You to stop all of this! Each and EVERY child is so valued that You sent Jesus and this saddens my heart that people would idolize life so much as to make it valueless because of selfishness. It reminds me of 1 Kings 3:16-28, the story of the woman who stole a mother’s baby and was fine sawing it in half because she had no love and it wasn’t her child. She treated it like property instead of precious. Don’t let the hearts grow cold! REVIVE humanity, let Your fire fall from Heaven and set ablaze Your people and those who can still be saved and destroy the evil that only seeks to kill, steal, and destroy! PROTECT life, marriage, conception, family, gender, sexuality and the sanctity of it all! In Jesus MIGHTY Name!! AMEN! We must be bold enough to speak the truth or else demons will fill the space with lies from the pit of hell.
TRUST IN JESUS, I agree! You put this so well! Such Truth! Amen!
EMBRYOS BEST LEFT IN STORAGE. ADOPT.
Please Lord listen to the cries of your people as we intercede for the lives of the unborn, including embryos. We claim Isaiah 54:17, “but in the coming day, no weapon formed against you shall succeed and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord”. Father change the hearts and minds of the judge, and the ex-husband, and anyone else in this situation. In your name we pray, Amen.
yes Lord, I agree with this prayer, also that “great shall be the peace of thy children”.
Lord, i would add to this prayer, give us boldness in the power of your Holy Spirit to speak up the truth and act accordingly. Also, in the midst of our trials, would you revive us again that thy people may rejoice in you?
How is the judge able to make that determination when slavery was over turned? The common sense thing is…the marriage ended so no more children. That is how it works. Cryostorage- wow!
Father, only Your courts of heaven decision matters. We go to Your trading floors and ask for minds and hearts to seek Truth, stop reproductive mischief against Your desires for our best and reverse curses of our culture that plague us day after day. Your mercy is new every morning! We bless Your extraordinary strategies and ask forgiveness for our sins against You. We plead guilty before You!
Judge Richard Gardine is obviously a “woke” judge to even consider calling these embryos “chattle” and using a law about slaves is unconscionable. The embryos were created by God and deserve to be treated as pre-born humans. While IVF has helped many women to conceive, this process has always had the possibility of issues like this coming up. This is another time when human beings need to realize that the life giving power that is given by God, is God’s to give, not ours to take. This is very sad and should make all of us aware that when we determine to go around the God to take the creation of human beings into our own hands, that there will be problems that man has no answer for.
An embryo is an “unborn offspring in the early stages of development, usually 2-8 weeks, after which it is called a fetus.” “Fetus” is the latin word for baby. Therefore an embryo is a human life. Father, forgive us for not trusting your plan to be fruitful and multiply, but rather trying to control Your gift of life. Forgive us for not trusting you to give us children when doctors say it is impossible. Your Word says “there will be no barren among you.” Open our eyes to Your goodness, faithfulness and power to bring Your Word to pass in our lives for Your glory. Give judges knowledge and understanding to protect the unborn and restore value to all human life.