What are some legal considerations surrounding fertility procedures?

The legal issues involved in preserving your fertility can seem complex, but taking the time to consider them now can prevent potential issues down the road. Generally, with the exception of women who use donor sperm, frozen embryos are legally “co-owned” by the two individuals involved in their production. If that couple were to separate or divorce, a legal proceeding may be necessary to decide the future use of the embryos. By comparison, freezing eggs avoids similar legal entanglements.

Who can utilize embryo freezing?
Women who are married or in a stable relationship with a partner are good candidates for this option. However, women who do not have a partner may choose to create embryos using sperm from an anonymous donor.

Do I have to be married?
The short answer is no, but for couples pursuing embryo freezing, it is recommended that they seek the advice of a lawyer regarding future use of the embryos, prior to going through the process.

What about a gestational carrier/surrogate pregnancy?
Gestational surrogacy offers a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy (such as women who have had their uterus removed) with the opportunity to have her own biological child. Embryos created using the woman’s egg and her partner’s sperm are implanted into another woman’s uterus, and she will carry the pregnancy. Because of the complexity of the relationships between the woman, her partner, and the surrogate carrier, the legal status of each participant varies widely from state to state. In states that do allow this option, a formal legal contract is usually required between the carrier and the couple. Discussing legal factors openly with all involved parties is the best strategy for making a fair, informed decision. Though it might seem severe or unnecessary, addressing these legal considerations in a timely manner can bring clarity and peace of mind to your decision-making process.