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Maryland Woman Wins Custody of Frozen Embryos

A Prince George's County, MD husband and wife fought for custody of their frozen embryos after their divorce was finalized last May.

A Maryland woman has gained custody of nine frozen embryos she created with her ex-husband, according to an attorney working on the case.

Godlove Mbah of Greenbelt and his ex-wife, Honorine Anong of Upper Marlboro, were divorced in May 2012, but disputes have continued over the couple's stored embryos and a 3-year-old daughter previously conceived from one their embryos.

Though Mbah asked to have them destroyed, according to The Daily Record, Maryland Circuit Court Judge John Paul Davey signed an order in December giving sole custody of the embryos to Anong—a first-of-its-kind ruling in Maryland.

Davey found that the commercial contract the couple signed at the Shady Grove Fertility Clinic in July 2008—prior to the procedure—was valid, according to attorneys involved in the case.

That contract said the embryos would be given to Anong in case of a separation. Nataly Mendocilla, Mbah's attorney, argued that her client's signature wasn't notarized.

Although Mbah lost the dispute over the embryos, he was awarded sole custody of the couple's 3-year-old daughter in April after her mother was found "unfit to have custody", Mendocilla said.

"I disagree with the court's opinion," Johnine Clark, Anong's attorney, said of the custody issue.

According to Clark, the judge based his decision on an incident when Anong left her toddler alone for a few hours during the day. Mbah also reported other occurences as well, but Clark denied those reports.

However, Mbah's attorney argued that giving Anong custody of the embryos is taking away her client's rights to choose whether or not to father another child.

Anong wants to have more children, Mendocilla said, and now Mbah is obligated to be a parent against his will "with his ex-wife who has lost custody of the one child they do have because of neglect."

Mendocilla believes her client should have equal rights in that decision. Clark contends that her client cannot have children by any other means because her fallopian tubes were removed to help her conceive through in vitro fertilization.

The frozen embryos are the only way Anong can have more children, Clark said.

But Mendocilla argued that it is a matter of public policy.

"If a woman can clearly have an abortion of a known viable fetus, why can we not apply those same laws to a father who does not want to be a parent?" she asked.

Currently, Anong has the right to implant the embryos, although Mbah's attorney has filed a stay to prevent any action pending an appeal.

The stay was filed on Dec. 28, but as of Friday, it had not been not granted.

Michelle Burke January 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM
This is a classic example of the results of playing God. Children have become mere entities to be had or killed according to our fickle whims. This Pandora's Box was opened with not just legalized abortion but with the whole gammut of chemical and surgical contraception and fertility manipulation on which our self indulgent culture has hung its hat.
Normajean Mary Oberst January 13, 2013 at 09:00 PM
The embryos are already their children..sons or daughters of this couple. He already is a father to them..she is their mother. How sad they have to be in a deep freeze instead of in a warm and loving family ....
Sharon Nance January 15, 2013 at 03:51 PM
People have to remember that you have to have fallopian tubes in order to get pregnant. She no longer has any and this is her only chance of having another child. I don't know all the details of why she lost custody of the 3 year old but no embryos should be destroyed. He just needs to sign away his rights to them so he's not obligated to care for them.
Sharon Nance January 15, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Also, until you are in the situation of not being able to have a child by natural means, you will NEVER understand what we go through.
Alison M January 15, 2013 at 07:38 PM
It is uneducated and close-minded to suggest that undergoing artificial reproductive technology is a result of self indulgent culture. It is none other than that of loving parents who want, and have the right, to bring joyous life into this world. Fickle whims are not factors in the medically assisted creation of a child. Furthermore, we make a multitude of medical decisions regarding health and wellbeing on a regular basis; if we go on the basis of "accepting" situations, we wouldn't have the modern medicine that saves so many lives today, and instead would be reliant on archaeic methodologies and techniques. And, as Ms. Nance stated, without the unique and heartwrenching personal experience of infertility, it is unfair to cast such harsh judgement. To each their own in terms of your view points on such matters as abortion, contraception, and reproductive technology, but consider that there is simply no right or easy answer to the very challenging situation in this article.

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