Reason Roundup

Who Deserves Custody of an Embryo?: Reason Roundup

Plus: Massachusetts legalizes sex outside marriage, judge punts on FOSTA ruling, and Trump goes tariff mad.


L. SOUCI / BSIP/Newscom

Divorcing couple can't use their frozen embryos but someone else can, says judge. A new law in Arizona says that in embryo custody disputes, decisions must be made based on which party is most likely to have them "develop to birth." This first-of-its-kind measure—signed in April and taking effect this month—portends an expanding front on the pro-life battleground: the fight over frozen embryos.

Slate takes a look today at the law firm and group of activists trying to secure more rights for the excess embryos created as part of in vitro fertilization procedures, and to establish preferential legal treatment for parties who want to see more of them become babies. At the forefront is the Thomas More Society, which represents people in frozen-embryo custody disputes. In Slate's words, the group "argues that embryos should not be treated as pieces of jointly owned property because they have a right to life that supersedes an adult's right not to reproduce."

The Thomas More Society helped get Arizona's new embryo law passed, in part as a response to the situation between Ruby Torres and John Joseph Terrell. After they dated for a few months, Torres was diagnosed with cancer. The couple

created seven embryos before Torres went through cancer treatment. Later, during the couple's divorce proceedings, she said she wanted to keep the embryos for possible use since she probably couldn't get pregnant without them. Terrell said [he] didn't want his genetic material to be involved in Torres' hypothetical pregnancy at all. An Arizona Superior Court judge ruled that Torres couldn't make a baby with the embryos without Terrell's consent.

But, the judge added, the embryos shouldn't be destroyed—they must be donated, offered up to infertile people who can't make embryos themselves.

From the pro-life perspective, this is the second-best outcome: The woman who wants to bring the embryos to life doesn't get to keep them, but they still stand a chance of becoming children. For pro-choice observers, however, it's a disturbing decision. Why should a stranger have the right to use Torres and Terrell's embryos when neither of them approved that option? If Terrell's argument was compelling enough for the judge to deny Torres possession of the embryos, why wasn't it enough to keep the embryos out of a mass donation bin, forcing him to have biological children he still doesn't want?

Embryo custody battles are increasingly coming before courts, which have ruled in both directions but typically err on the side of not allowing the fertilized eggs to be used unless both parents consent.

"Judges have often—but not always—ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used," notes The Washington Post, "sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent. Arizona, however, is taking the opposite approach."


Massachusetts repeals old sex laws. It took a few hundred years, but Massachusetts legislators have finally declared it legal to have sex outside of marriage, to distribute information about abortion, and to prescribe birth control to single women. The Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young (NASTY) Women Act would "repeal a number of archaic laws, some dating back to the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s," reports the Springfield Republican's Shira Schoenberg:

These include laws punishing adultery and fornication; criminalizing abortion and distributing information about abortion; requiring abortions be performed in a hospital; and prohibiting doctors from prescribing contraception to unmarried women.

Of course the laws aren't enforced any longer—as Schoenberg notes, "most of the laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable under other state and federal laws." But "this is an important moment to shore up all of our rights here in Massachusetts," Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, tells the paper, noting the possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

That's the sort of stuff that makes good fundraising fodder for NARAL. But one needn't believe we're on the fast track to A Handmaid's Tale to support the repeal of outdated and authoritarian laws.

The measure was approved by both houses of the Massachusetts Legislature this week and sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.


Tax all the things!


No ruling on FOSTA injunction. "Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court in Washington D.C. made no ruling on [the Woodhull Freedom Foundation's] request for a preliminary injunction" that would block enforcement of the anti-prostitution law until the case is resolved, "nor did he announce a date when he would issue a ruling," reports AVN.


Forbes sorts through various crypto regulation proposals.

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