Woman asks Missouri Court of Appeals for custody of frozen embryos

By Dave Andrusko

Jalesia McQueen

Jalesia McQueen

As is always the case, the details are different but the legal question remains the same: what happens to frozen embryos when a couple splits and there is a fight over the embryos’ future.

Prior to their divorce in 2014, immigration lawyer Jalesia McQueen and Justin Gadberry had two twin boys through in-vitro fertilization. When the couple went to court in 2014 over what would happen to the remaining two frozen embryos, a St. Louis County trial court judge ruled that “Neither could use or destroy the embryos without the written consent of the other,” according to the Associated Press.

In appealing the decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals last week, Gadberry said she wants to use the embryos to have more children.

The AP noted that McQueen said in a news conference, “At the time [the embryos were created] we signed an agreement about what to do with the frozen embryos in the case of certain incidences.” She said that she and her now ex-husband agreed that in the case of divorce, they agreed she would get the embryos. However the trial court judge invalidated the agreement.

Jennifer Meckles reported that Tim Schlesinger, the attorney for Justin Gadberry, said

his client does not want to have more children with his former wife, and said the pair had a “very acrimonious” divorce. He said Gadberry would support a decision to donate embryos to research or to an infertile couple, or even have them destroyed. But he is not willing to allow McQueen to implant them in an attempted pregnancy.

Several pro-life organizations are backing McQueen’s cause, including Missouri Right to Life, Lawyers for Life, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, and the Thomas More Society.

The issue of frozen embryos and divorced couples is an ongoing battle which has received national attention because of the high profile case of has filed a similar request in Los Angeles in a dispute between “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara and Nicholas Loeb, her ex-boyfriend, who wants custody of the frozen embryos they created before breaking up.

Last month NRL News Today reported on the decision rendered by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo who ruled that Mimi C. Lee must adhere to an agreement she’d made with her ex-husband to destroy five frozen embryos if the couple divorced.

In its brief on behalf of McQueen, the Thomas More Society made a variety of powerful legal arguments why the Missouri Court of Appeals should “recognize that the frozen embryos are unique human beings with their own rights and should not be subject to a contract dispute.”