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Understanding the legal issues surrounding frozen embryos

Texas parents may be interested in some of the legal issues surrounding frozen embryos. State courts are divided on how to approach these disputes.

Since the early 1980s, couples have been freezing pre-embryos in the event that one or the other will be infertile. Estimates of the number of frozen embryos currently in the U.S. vary from 600,000 to over a million. In 1984, the first baby from a frozen embryo was born. Since then, legal issues have cropped up surrounding what to do when there is a dispute over these embryos.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the law that dictates what to do in these disputes may vary. Some states, such as Tennessee, balance the interests of the two potential parents. This includes looking at whether or not the parent who wishes to bring the embryo to term has a reasonable alternative method to have a child. In a number of other states, including Texas, they take a contractual approach to the issue. Some require that a contract be signed prior to the freezing of the embryos while others look for a contractual arrangement to enforce between the parties.

Illinois has taken a hybrid approach, respecting a contract but looking to balance interests where there is no prior agreement. A current case may go to the Illinois Supreme Court to set a precedent for other similar cases in the state.

Rights in frozen embryos are just one of many parental rights issues. In these cases, an attorney may be able to help a parent to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law. The attorney may be useful in evaluating what would be in the best interests of the child or in representing a parent in front of a court.

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