Wednesday, October 08, 2008

So when does the Embryo Tax take effect?

I'm from St. Louis, where every school child makes a field trip at one time or another to the Old Courthouse, overlooking the Mississippi River, under the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

"On these steps slaves were sold," our teachers told us. "And inside is where the two Dred Scott cases were decided, which eventually resulted in the Supreme court ruling that negroes--even free negroes--are 'beings of an inferior order' and thus not able to be citizens of the United States. In other words, slaves were not considered persons, but private property."

The Dred Scott decision marks one of the nadirs of our history. Now here's another, the latest step in America's continuing compulsion for commodification. Today the Oregon Court of Appeals declared embryos to be private property. So, does this mean that someday they'll be taxable? Kyrie eleison.

Oregon court rules frozen embryos can be destroyed

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ordered six frozen embryos destroyed after ruling they can be treated as personal property in a divorce.

The court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that an agreement leaving the final decision up to the former wife must be followed.

Dr. Laura Dahl, a pediatrician, and her former husband, Dr. Darrell Angle, an orthodontist, had attempted to conceive through a process called in vitro fertilization.

After several failed attempts, the couple gave up and left the embryos with Oregon Health & Science University under an agreement that spelled out how they would be stored.

Dahl decided to have the embryos destroyed, but Angle had argued they should be donated to other couples trying to conceive.

In an opinion by Presiding Judge Rex Armstrong, the court ruled there is a contractual right to determine the fate of the embryos as personal property.

But Armstrong noted there is little guidance on who gets to make that decision in a divorce, so the court relied on a 1998 New York state case that held agreements on what to do with embryos after in vitro fertilization are binding.

Armstrong noted the ruling in New York said that it should be the parents, "not the state and not the courts, who by their prior directive make this deeply personal life choice."

Angle denied that he had read the OHSU agreement he signed with Dahl, and opposed the destruction of the embryos or their donation to science because "there's no pain greater than having participated in the demise of your own child."

But Dahl said she opposed her ex-husband's recommendation that the embryos be donated to another woman for implantation because she did not want anybody else to raise her child.

Dahl was also concerned that any child born as a result of implantation might later wish to contact the son who she and Angle had previously conceived naturally.

The court noted that Angle "does not argue that the agreement itself is ambiguous or invalid for public policy reasons" and affirmed a Clackamas County Circuit Court ruling that he agreed his ex-wife would make the final decision.

"You are not your own. You were bought for a price."

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