Arizona changes laws regarding frozen embryos

Arizona's governor signed into a law a bill that takes control of frozen embryos in that state when a couple splits.

Many divorcing couples who have embryos on ice end up in bitter custody battles when one spouse wants to keep them and one wants them destroyed. The spouse that wants to keep the embryos may put forth an emotional argument that the embryos represent his or her last hope for children due to disease or other issues.

The spouse that wants them destroyed often puts forth an equally emotional argument that he or she shouldn't be forced into parenthood with someone after their marriage is over -- and forced into a lifelong obligation to a child that he or she adamantly does not want -- just because the embryos are already in existence.

For many people, the issue also mixed with matter of religion and faith. Some people consider the embryos nothing but potential -- not living children. Others, convinced that the soul arrives with conception, see destroying the embryos as akin to murder.

The issue is a hot button in many circles with no easy answers. It's been difficult to find a middle ground that seems to honor the rights and beliefs of both types of people. This new law attempts to do just that. However, imperfect it may be, it's the first compromise of its kind.

If parents divorce, the new law grants the embryos to whichever parent is willing to allow them develop. In return, the other parent is relieved of all child support obligations.

There are a couple of problems with this law to its detractors. It still potentially forces parenthood on the reluctant spouse -- if a child is born, he or she is biologically tied to the child in some way even if there's no financial obligation. In addition, the law negates any prior written agreements the couple signed -- which means prenups and postnups that address the issue are void. That puts the state in control of their fertility -- whether they like it or not -- as soon as they get divorced.

It's hard to tell if the law will survive a challenge in court -- and there's no provision that tells a judge what to do when both spouses insist they want to let the embryos grow. The issue is bound to haunt family courts once again.

Source: The Republic, "Arizona Gov. Ducey signs bills on embryos, substitute teachers, driver's licenses and more," Andrew Nicla, April 03, 2018

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