Arizona’s highest court has ruled a divorced woman cannot use the frozen embryos fertilized by her ex-husband’s sperm to have a baby against his wishes.
The Arizona Supreme Court handed down the ruling on Thursday, vacating a lower court’s decision granting Ruby Torres the opportunity to use the frozen embryos, NBC News reported.
Vice Chief Justice Ann Scott Timmer said in a court opinion that the contract Torres entered into with her ex-husband John Terrell, requires that the embryos be donated to another couple.
According to the agreement signed by Torres and Terrell, both parties would have to give “express, written consent” before either could use the embryos to conceive a child.
Torres, a divorce attorney who practices in Arizona, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014.
In response, she decided to undergo in vitro fertilization in case chemotherapy treatment rendered her unable to bear children, the Arizona Republic reported.
Terrell, her boyfriend at the time, agreed to be the donor.
After the couple married and then split, he asked a Maricopa County Superior Court during divorce proceedings to preclude Torres from impregnating herself with the embryos.
Terrell was the one who initiated the divorce, according to NBC News.
“She wanted to … force my client to become a father against his will,” Terrell’s lawyer, Eric Fraser, told a local TV station last week.
Fraser also cited Arizona child support laws, which would have made his client responsible for contributing financially to the child’s maintenance for 18 years.
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in March that Torres’ desire to get pregnant using the fertilized embryos outweighed Terrell’s “interest in avoiding procreation.”
In response to the case, Arizona legislators passed a state law in 2018 that requires embryos from a divorced couple be given to the parent who wants to procreate.
The law extinguishes the rights and obligations of the other parent.
However, the law does not apply retroactively, meaning Torres’ case still needed to be litigated in a courtroom.