Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

It amazes me how an embryo is or isn’t an existing human life—depending on what the question is regarding the embryo being discussed.  In Argentina, a man fathered embryos via IVF, and then divorced.  His ex wants to be implanted with the embryos, but he says that would be forcing him into unwanted fatherhood.  The court ruled in favor of the ex wife.  From the AP Story:

A judicial ruling in Argentina says frozen embryos from a divorced man’s sperm can be used by his ex-wife to get pregnant again. An appeals panel in Buenos Aires has upheld an earlier ruling in favor of the woman, who had one baby with the man after artificial insemination in 2005. The couple then got divorced. The man argues he shouldn’t be forced into biological fatherhood with his ex-wife. But the two female judges say life begins at conception in Argentina, so he gave approval by donating sperm.

I think that is absolutely right.  If the wife sought to use stored sperm, I would say no, because that would be forced fatherhood.  But the issue is stored embryos.  That’s an altogether different matter.

These days, when it comes to reproduction, it is a woman’s world.  Once embryos are created, she can be implanted against the father’s will, as here.  I wonder if she could also abort against the father’s will in Argentina—as can happen in most countries where abortion is legal.  Also, if he wanted to implant the embryos in a surrogate mother—crassly known in IVF parlance as a “gestational carrier”—could his former wife prevent it?  Not if we have sexual equality.  Oh, that’s right.  We don’t.  It would be an interesting question.

In any event, the court was right.  His ex wasn’t forcing him to become a father.  He already is a father.  Those embryos are his children (or offspring, if you prefer), just not yet born.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles