Tough Case

In a very unsettling case out of Illinois, a judge has ruled that a couple whose frozen embryos were inadvertently destroyed by the fertility clinic at which they were stored has the right to file a wrongful death suit.

In an opinion issued Friday, Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence said "a pre-embryo is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb."

He said the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child has been killed.
I feel terribly bad for the couple to whom this happened, but as a pro-choice advocate, I am very torn about this decision. I don’t personally believe that a pre-embryo should be considered a human being; in a perfect world, the issue would be tied to viability. Do I think that a fetus, which would have lived if delivered the day before, dying as a result of an attack on the mother should be a criminal offense? Yes. Do I think a first-term abortion should be? No. Until I feel secure that appropriate lines can be drawn, however, I can't support fetus-protection laws (such as Laci’s Law), lest they end up slowly eroding abortion rights, as many of their supporters openly intend.

And in this case, the embryo had not even been implanted. My feeling is that the couple to be entitled to damages for property loss, which sounds callous even to my own ears, but categorizing the destruction of a frozen embryo in the same way as the death of a living, breathing child seems absurd to me. It disproportionately elevates the status of the former, and diminishes the value of the latter. I doubt any parent who has lost a child would consider it the same, and I can’t, either.

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