Monday, August 28, 2017

Attorneys argue that right-to-parent trumps property treatment of human embryos in Colorado embryo custody case

          Thomas More Society files brief for pro-life Ob-Gyns supporting mom

(August 28, 2017 – Denver) Thomas More Society attorneys have filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in a controversial Colorado embryo custody case. On behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the nonprofit public interest law firm submitted documents to the Colorado Supreme Court supporting Mandy Rooks, the mother of six cryopreserved babies. The embryos are those remaining in cryogenic storage after in-vitro fertilization procedures which allowed Ms. Rooks to deliver a son, and later twins, while married to Drake Rooks, the children’s father. Despite the couple’s divorce, Ms. Rooks wants to keep the babies for future implantation. Her now ex-husband has asked to the court to deliver the six embryos to him for destruction. 

Attorney Rita Gitchell, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, spoke to one of the primary issues in the submitted amicus brief. “The appellate court erred in adopting a ‘balance of interest’ approach and treating the preserved human embryos as marital property in the divorce. Current science has established that these embryonic children are the result of procreation and are not property.”  For that reason, any balancing of interests must include the interest in continued life of the living embryonic human beings. 

Gitchell added, “Neither the appellate or lower district court cited any law that permits the court to terminate the life of a human being without a compelling reason. For those who argue that Roe v. Wade permits termination of an unborn child during pregnancy, but that does not apply when a mother desires to give birth to her child. Because Mandy Rooks wants to bring her embryonic children to birth, Roe is inapplicable to this case. Roe does not grant a father the right to terminate his genetic embryonic child to avoid procreation, which has already occurred.”  

Gitchell also criticized existing legal precedents that fail to recognize these human embryos as human beings with identifiable parents. “These children were created intentionally with the participation of both Ms. Rooks and her husband. They deliberately conceived these biological offspring with the intention of bringing them to birth.  Their mother has the right to carry out their intention to bear, raise and protect them, even if their father has decided he no longer wishes to do so,” explained Gitchell. Colorado law supports this position because it allows a father to relinquish legal parenthood under the facts of this case. This does not affect the mother’s parental rights over the embryos.  

Read the amicus curiae submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court in Rooks v. Rooks by Thomas More Society attorneys on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, here.

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit

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