Arizona Is Siding With Life In Frozen Embryo Debate. Here’s What You Should Know

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Grace Carr Reporter
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Arizona passed a law mandating frozen embryos be given to the party that seeks to help them “develop to birth,” sparking debate among pro-lifers and abortion advocates about what the law will mean for reproductive rights and the definition of life.

“Most people believe that frozen embryos should have a chance at life,” Republican Sen. Nancy Barto said, according to The Washington Post. The law took effect July 1 after being passed April 3.

The law, SB 1393, is the first of its kind to be passed in the U.S., siding with the parent seeking to turn the embryo into a child. The bill would not require any party who does not want to have a baby to pay for child support.

Pro-lifers contend that the embryos should be given ‘personhood’ status and be thought of as children, while abortion advocates contend that to do so would negate Roe V. Wade by outlawing the destruction of embryos.

“The new law is in fact an end around aimed at establishing the ‘personhood’ of unborn embryos,” the American Bar Association’s fertility technology committee chair Rich Vaughn said. Vaughn added that the legislation is “flawed” and could have dire consequences for women’s reproductive rights. (RELATED: Surrogate Mothers Ask Supreme Court To Recognize Their Rights)

Arizona’s law follows a court dispute between Ruby Torres and John Joseph Terrell over Torres’s embryos. Shortly before the couple were married, Torres froze her embryos after learning that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be unable to conceive after undergoing chemotherapy. The couple was married for three years before getting divorced after Terrell had an affair.

The divorce turned into a battle over Torres’s embryos. Torres wanted to have a baby but Terrell, whose sperm was inserted in the embryos, did not want to father a child. The case went to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner who had to weigh the improbability that Torres could ever conceive without the embryos with Terrell’s express desire not to become a father.

Steiner ruled that Torres could not use the embryos and that they could not be destroyed, but would be put up for donation. Torres appealed the decision and a decision is imminent.

Steiner did note that she had researched the topic widely. “They are not people, but they are special because they’re somewhere between a bunch of cells and the potential of being a person, so I do respect it,” she said, The Washington Post reports.

While many states side with those who object to becoming a parent, Chicago and Pennsylvania have awarded embryos to women seeking to conceive. Other courts have ruled that the embryos be frozen indefinitely or donated to research.

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