15.12.2010 Background to R -v- R (Frozen Human Embryos) Case

15.12.2010 Background to R -v- R (Frozen Human Embryos) Case

Pro Life Campaign comments on R -v- R (Frozen Human Embryos) Case

R –V- R Judgment issued by Supreme Court on 15th December 2009
15th December 2010


In R v. R, a woman sued her estranged husband for refusing to let her implant frozen embryos which were held in a Dublin IVF clinic.

In 2002, the woman and her husband decided to undergo IVF treatment. The husband signed a form at the Dublin clinic affirming he would act as the father of any children born as a result. 6 viable embryos were produced, 3 of whom were implanted; the remaining three were frozen. The IVF was successful, and the woman gave birth to a baby girl in October 2002. Three months later, the couple separated, and the woman asked for custody of her three remaining embryos.  However, Mr. R did not want to act as father to the embryos, if the implantation were successful. "I have a right to say no. It is my human right," he said. The woman persisted in her desire to carry her children to term. "These embryos constitute human life, I treat them as our children," she said. "That is how our daughter came into the world."
The High Court judge, Brian McGovern, said it was not possible for the court to decide when unborn life begins.  The High Court ruled that the frozen human embryos were not protected under Article 40.3.3. That was something that could be given by another referendum or by statute.  Justice Brian McGovern said that human embryos are not considered unborn children and the couple, not the courts, must decide the fate of the frozen embryos. The 1983 amendment protects the life of the "unborn". But Justice McGovern said that voters who approved it were only thinking of a foetus in the womb. "Until the law or the Constitution is changed, this issue remains within the sphere of ethics and morality," he wrote.   The judgment was widely criticized.
Mrs.R, appealed to the Supreme Court.  The case was heard in February and judgment issued on 15th December 2009.    The Court held inter alia that Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution does not afford protection to the human embryo prior to implantation.

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