The technical term for Hollywood’s latest bioethical brain-teaser is anti-mimesis, the theory that life imitates art. Sophia Vergara, the Colombian-American starlet who stars in Modern Family, a popular TV show which depicts the kaleidoscopic formations of contemporary families (at least families in southern California), has become embroiled in a dispute over embryos. Her tangled relationship could end up as a script for her own show.
Surrogacy, sperm donation, and IVF agony have become grist for the mill of the glossies, but Ms Vergara’s tribulations reached as far as the op-ed page of the New York Times this week.
With her former fiancé, Nick Loeb, the scion of a New York banking family, an actor, a failed politician, and successful businessman, she created two female embryos for a surrogate, as she (allegedly) did not want to bear the children herself. Under a contract that they signed, the embryos could only be implanted if both parties agreed.
That happened in 2013. Then the couple split up. In 2014 Mr Loeb applied to void the contract so that he could proceed with a surrogate pregnancy. Ms Vergara refused. Mr Loeb called in the lawyers and explained his side of the story in the New York Times:
“When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property? Does one person’s desire to avoid biological parenthood (free of any legal obligations) outweigh another’s religious beliefs in the sanctity of life and desire to be a parent? A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects. Shouldn’t a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects?”
Mr Loeb is Jewish by background and Episcopalian by denomination, not Catholic. But he says that he has a great deal of sympathy for Catholic views on the humanity of embryos. He wants his embryos to be born. Ms Vergara (who is Catholic) wants them to remain frozen forever.
"Vergara, who has happily moved on with her life, is content to leave the embryos frozen indefinitely as she has no desire to have children with her ex, which should be understandable given the circumstances," her lawyers say.
In Loeb’s view, “keeping them frozen forever is tantamount to killing them.” He says, “I take the responsibility and obligation of being a parent very seriously. This is not just about saving lives; it is also about being pro-parent.”
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