On thing can be said for Augusta Roman, she certainly fought her legal case until the bitter end.
In a Harris County, Texas divorce, she wanted to be awarded frozen embryos she had created with her husband when they were still together. Augusta wanted to implant the embryos and become pregnant even though her now ex-husband, Randy protested and said that although he might want children some day with someone else, he did not want to create children with a woman who obviously hated him. And so Augusta and Randy waged a legal battle both in the judicial courts and in the court of public opinion for over two years, through all the levels of court in Texas, right up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that it will not overturn the Texas Court of Appeals decision that denied custody to Augusta. But in April, Augusta filed a Petition for Rehearing and additional briefs to the Court. Yesterday, May 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down it’s final, absolute, and unappealable order. It denied the rehearing. Augusta Roman could not have the embryos. Unless the donors agree otherwise, the embryos will be destroyed.
The case drew national attention because it pitted several controversial legal issues against each other. Do a handful of flash frozen cells have a “right to life”? Does a man who donated his genetic material for the specific purpose of creating a traditional family have a right not to be forced into creating children out of wedlock with a woman who hates him. Does a woman have an absolute right to bear biological children that is superior to the man’s right not to bear biological children? Despite these titlating issues however, the Texas Court of Appeals denied custody to Augusta based on boring, dry contract law. Apparently, the parties had a signed agreement with the fertility clinic that in the event of divorce, the embryos would be destroyed. The Court said this contract controlled the case and it did not have to look at any other issues to decide. In not accepting the case, the U.S. Supreme Court is basically saying that the Texas Court got it right.
A week ago, prior to this final hearing, the author of this blog spoke with Becky Reitz, the attorney for Augusta about the case. She realized the long chances her client had on her last ditch effort, but she said that her client could not morally end this case unless all legal options had been exhausted. I asked her about what the final disposition of the embryos might be. I pointed out that if the parties agreed, there are other options other than simply destroying them- such as donating them to medical research. She did not know if her client and Randy could come to an agreement on what to do with the embryos.
Today I received an email from Randy Roman, the obvious tone of which was of great relief. He thanked me for keeping track of the case through my blog and he wanted the word to get out about the ruling. I replied back to him that just last week I had received a phone call from a man who read my blog and was facing similar fact as him.
Roman v. Roman is now finally over and forever on the legal books. How it will be used as precident in future cases is limited only by the imaginations of the lawyers.
Now that this is over, I hope Randy and Augusta can find peace.