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Andrew Bath, Executive Vice President and General Counsel; Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel; and Peter Breen, Special CounselThomas More Society

CHICAGO, November 1, 2018 (Thomas More Society) – The Thomas More Society has a history of fighting for the “little guy,” but the national public interest law firm’s tiniest clients have been drawing attention as embryo custody battles have become commonplace, including in a recent case in Colorado where they were involved (see Colorado Supreme Court Issues Embryo-Custody Guidelines).

Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel, and Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, outside the US Supreme Court when Scheidler’s case was at the US Supreme Court for the third time (Credit: Thomas More Society)

When the Thomas More Society  was founded twenty years ago, the firm’s focus was on defending Joe Scheidler, the “Godfather of the Pro-Life Movement,” who recently celebrated his 91st birthday. Today, as the emphasis of science and culture shifts, these dedicated attorneys find that some of their clients have need of defense as soon as they have been conceived.

Attorney Rita Gitchell, Special Counsel with the Thomas More Society, explains how the science proves that embryonic humans deserve full protection of the law. “Today there are observable scientific facts known about differences in the behavior and composition of the individual cells in the human embryos prior to the 8-cell stage of development and prior to implantation in the womb. These facts were not known or reported in most prior case precedent. As human beings, human embryos are protected under the 13th Amendment. These human embryos are human lives at an identifiable stage of human development with full potential until death–not potential life, as some have erroneously reported.”

As torn families war over their smallest offspring, the Thomas More Society rushes to the defense of these little ones. Notable recent embryo custody disputes include:

Tom Brejcha with Joe Scheidler at an awards event (Credit: Thomas More Society)

  • Szarfranski v. Dunston:  On behalf the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) as amicus curiae in support of the mother, the Thomas More Society filed a brief arguing there is no right under the United States Constitution for a man to avoid compulsory parenthood when a man agreed without coercion to provide his sperm to a woman to create embryos. It was the man’s action – not a government action – that made him a natural father. He was not married to the mother and under Illinois state law he could be considered a sperm donor and did not have to be a legal father. SCOTUS accepted the submitted amicus curiae brief over objection of the Father. The Father’s request for SCOTUS to hear the case if he had a right under the U.S. Constitution to choose not to be a parent after he created the embryos was denied.
  • McQueen v. Gadberry: Thomas More Society attorneys, on behalf of AAPLOG, and along with Lawyers for Life and Missouri Right to Life, acting as amicus curiae, asserted the scientific facts that embryos are human beings, not property, in this controversial embryo custody case. The lawsuit involved a Saint Louis immigration attorney, her military ex-husband and their cryo-preserved children – two embryonic siblings of their young twin sons. 
  • Loeb v. Vergara: On behalf of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and AAPLOG, the Thomas More Society presented facts that human embryos are human beings and not property in the highly-publicized Los Angeles Superior Court embryo custody case involving actress Sophia Vergara and her former fiancé Nick Loeb. Thomas More Society attorneys argued for the well-being of the couple’s frozen embryos, created through in vitro fertilization.
  • Rooks v. Rooks: The Thomas More Society supported Mandy Rooks, the mother of six cryopreserved babies. Ms. Rooks wanted to keep the babies for future implantation. Her ex-husband, Drake Rooks, asked to the court to deliver the six embryos to him for destruction. This case is currently pending before the Colorado Supreme Court.

November 9 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Thomas More Society’s 1998 incorporation. The legal battles fought by the national nonprofit law firm have brought major victories to Catholic and other Christian churches, organizations, and families, and yes, embryonic children.

Gitchell commented, “It’s easy to get caught in the uproar of noisy political issues with each side screaming about their rights. The battle to preserve the lives of intentionally created tiny embryos is a quieter one. These little ones have no voice. It is up to us to speak of their behalf, to ensure that they are protected under the law and that the courts understand the observable facts of life.” It is also very important to protect parental rights to bear and raise their children.