Actor and producer Nick Loeb has filed a lawsuit against his ex-fiancée, actress Sofia Vergara, for full and sole custody of the former couple’s embryos, which reside in a state of cryopreservation in California.
In a case that is the first to bring awareness to the rights of embryos, Loeb has filed a petition with the District Court for the Louisiana parish of Plaquemines.
“The embryos are mine,” Loeb told Breitbart News during an interview Wednesday. “The biggest misconception out there is that I’m trying to steal my ex’s eggs. But, they’re not eggs. They’re embryos. It’s 50 percent me. It’s 50 percent mine.”
“If the roles were reversed, and she wanted them, and I wanted to destroy them, the entire mainstream media would be up in arms and I would be the evil man,” he asserted.
Loeb, who told Breitbart News he became pro-life in his 20s “when I went through having two abortions,” explained his perspective in a New York Times op-ed in April 2015:
When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property? Does one person’s desire to avoid biological parenthood (free of any legal obligations) outweigh another’s religious beliefs in the sanctity of life and desire to be a parent? A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects. Shouldn’t a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects? These are issues that, unlike abortion, have nothing to do with the rights over one’s own body, and everything to do with a parent’s right to protect the life of his or her unborn child.
“We’re hitting it head on with this lawsuit,” Jalesia “Jasha” McQueen, who represents Loeb, told Breitbart News. “This is the only case that actually looks at the embryos’ rights.”
The lawsuit claims it is in the best interests of the embryos – Emma and Isabella – to award their father full and sole custody of them.
Loeb is pursuing the case in Louisiana where embryos are considered “natural persons,” as opposed to California, which considers them “property,” and, consequently akin to “slaves,” the petition claims, continuing:
A failure to exercise jurisdiction would deprive and deny Emma and Isabella of their rights to equal protection under the laws guaranteed them by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Under Louisiana laws, Mr. Loeb, a father, desires and is entitled to an award of full and sole custody of his daughters, Emma and Isabella, to protect them from California, a state that considers Emma and Isabella mere property.
The petition adds:
A failure to exercise jurisdiction would deprive and deny Emma and Isabella of their rights guaranteed them by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to freedom from being considered property, specifically ‘Slavery [or] involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.’”
McQueen says the comparison to slavery is not a stretch at all.
“Having total dominion over a human being, and considering that human being ‘property’ – we used to have this problem a long time ago – and it’s happening again,” she said, explaining that state courts have typically struck down agreements in which embryos are given from one spouse to another in cases of divorce, but have upheld those in which the agreement is to terminate the embryos.
“In Louisiana, there are circumstances that allow embryos to be seen as natural persons,” McQueen continued. “We’re saying that this falls under the child custody laws. Emma and Isabella are natural persons under Louisiana law, and, therefore, they’re protected and Louisiana should step in to take jurisdiction over them.”
According to the petition, Vergara, the star of ABC’s Modern Family, “did not want to carry any children in her own uterus,” a decision that resulted in the couple’s decision to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Embryos Emma and Isabella were conceived in November 2013 via IVF. Their siblings were implanted in surrogates, but the attempts to bring them to term and birth failed. Loeb and Vergara had originally intended to use a surrogate to bring Emma and Isabella to birth as well, but the embryos were placed in a state of cryopreservation in California until they could select a surrogate.
Meanwhile, in May 2014, Loeb’s and Vergara’s relationship ended. Vergara stated publicly she wished to keep the embryos in cryopreservation indefinitely, a situation that would ultimately lead to their deaths, states the lawsuit.
McQueen explains IVF clinics currently have few restrictions.
“This is an unregulated area,” she said. “IVF clinics can pretty much do whatever they want. Most states have no regulation, no law whatsoever on this.”
Loeb’s attorney says regardless of whether people claim to be pro-life or pro-choice, those who have experienced IVF and created embryos consider them to be precious.
“Embryos have their unique DNA and they have a gender,” she explained. “This is the part that the courts are not understanding. They’re not understanding the value of these embryos and the connection people who have gone through IVF have with them – regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.”
“There are 600,000 and upward of a million frozen embryos in the United States and it’s climbing,” she noted.
The dispute over Loeb’s and Vergara’s embryos has taken various twists and turns over the last couple of years.
In November 2016, Vergara demanded that Loeb reveal the names of two of his former girlfriends who underwent abortions, and a California judge agreed with her.
Page Six reported at the time:
Vergara’s legal team wants to quiz both women under deposition to probe Loeb’s sexual past, but he fears the women’s names could become public due to the high-profile nature of the case, and the women could face intense scrutiny and shame.
Loeb exclusively told Page Six that despite losing at the appellate court, “I would rather go to jail than reveal the names. I believe we have to protect a woman’s right to privacy.”
“I couldn’t get any support,” Loeb explained to Breitbart News. “I figured maybe Planned Parenthood would come support me since they’re always supportive of not giving up hiding your identity or of having abortions in private. But nobody responded.”
He experienced another setback in August 2017 when a Louisiana federal judge dismissed the case, stating the embryos are citizens of California, where they were conceived.
Loeb is not asking Vergara to be involved in any parenting of Emma and Isabella – should they be able to come to term and birth – and is not seeking any financial support from her.