Justice Dismisses Woman who Demanded Post-mortem Embryo Transfer

The Rennes administrative court rejected the request of a woman who wanted the transfer to Spain, for a third pregnancy, of embryos conceived during her lifetime with her deceased husband.

According to French media, the woman had seized the court in summary procedure to obtain the suspension of a letter of last August by which the Center hospitalier universitaire (CHU) of Brest had informed her that “the transfer of post-mortem embryos was not authorized ” in France. The woman requested that this transfer be made to an assisted reproduction center in Barcelona. Unlike French law, Spanish law authorizes post-mortem procreation within 12 months of the husband’s death, that is, in this case, until next April.

The couple had a first child in 2014, then a second one, this time by medically assisted procreation (PMA) in 2018, after the husband fell seriously ill in 2017. Following this last pregnancy, the CHU de Brest had kept four embryos. The couple then expressed the wish to have “at least” a third child, said the applicant’s lawyer, but the man died last April.

“The proposed transfer of embryos abroad” by the wife “has the effect of circumventing the French legislative provisions which hinder its realization,” considered the three judges who ruled on this case. “This refusal decision (of the Brest University Hospital, note) does not therefore constitute a serious and manifestly unlawful interference with a fundamental freedom”, contrary to what the complainant claims, can be read in the court decision.

“It is a very tough decision,” said counsel for the complainant, Me Catherine Logeat. Accepting the PMA “for single people means asking the question about the case of couples where the husband has died,” she added. The National Assembly adopted in October a bioethics bill which notably provides for the opening of the PMA to all women, whether they are single women or lesbian couples.