Court won’t allow forced motherhood
By Randy Diamond, Trenton Bureau, The Record,
NJ, August 15, 2001
New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a woman
cannot be forced to become a parent against her wishes,
preventing her ex-husband from implanting their frozen embryos
in another woman or donating them to an infertile couple.
But the ruling sidestepped broader moral and legal questions
over whether the embryo can be considered human life and
whether New Jersey public policy should allow couples who
consent to fertility procedures the right to decide what
to do with unused embryos.
In its 7-0 ruling, the court acted on narrow grounds, siding
with the unidentified woman, known only as J.B. The court
said that because the father, known as M.B., is not infertile,
his former wife’s interest in not procreating outweighed
In other words, M.B.’s interest to procreate is not
lost if he is denied an opportunity to use or donate the
pre-embryos,” the court said. “In contracts,
J.B.’s right not to procreate may be lost through
attempted use or through donation of the pre-embryos. Implantation,
if successful, would result in the birth of her biological
child and could have lifelong emotional and psychological
The court did say the man, a devout Roman Catholic, could
decide whether the seven embryos should be kept in cold
storage or destroyed. His formed wife had not objected to
the embryos kept in storage if he paid for their maintenance.
The court also set general guidelines for fertility clinics,
saying that agreements should be written in plain language
and that a qualified clinic representative should review
the terms with couples. The court said this may help avoid
M.B.’s lawyer, Eric Spevak, said his client will
keep the embryos in storage.
“At least it gives us a chance to file an appeal
with the U.S. Supreme Court,” Spevak said.
J.B.’s lawyer, James Katz, said his client was thrilled
with the decision.
“It’s what we argued, that becoming a parent
should be a matter of choice, not coercion,” he said.
Katz said he considered it unlikely that the U.S. Supreme
Court would hear the case because there were no federal
Pro-choice groups, who had filed briefs in support of J.B.,
hailed Tuesday’s court decision, while antiabortion
groups, who had filed opposing briefs, denounced it.
Lenore Lapidus, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties
Union, said the court’s decision was the right one.
“Our main concern was that the woman’s decision
not become a parent was respected,” she said.
But John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American
Families, said the Supreme Court had approved the execution
“Any biology student knows that human life begins
at conception. The mother and father have already procreated,
and it was the court’s responsibility to protect innocent
human life,” Tomicki said. “This is a disgrace.”