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Local woman sues for legal right to adopted embryos

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – A St. Louis woman is at the center of a unique case involving who has legal control over donated embryos.

Jennifer McLaughlin and her husband Patrick reached a deal in 2009 with a California couple, Edward and Kerry Lambert, who had four embryos remaining from in-vitro fertilization attempts. The couples, both of whom are Catholic, stated in the agreement that life begins at conception and embryos were be treated as children.

McLaughlin agreed in the contract to implant all four embryos, but included a provision that if an IVF procedure failed and she did not wish to attempt to implant the remaining embryos, the Lamberts would regain legal control over those embryos a year after the contract was signed.

McLaughlin became pregnant on the first attempt, and gave birth to twin girls in early January. While she was still recovering, the year deadline passed, and McLaughlin received a letter from the Lambert's attorney that they were revoking her legal rights to the remaining embryos - whom McLaughlin considered her children.

A lawsuit filed Thursday in St. Louis County Circuit court seeks a temporary restraining order, and ultimately an injunction to prevent the Lamberts from making any decision about the embryos. The suit alleges that the Lamberts are marketing the embryos to other families. The clinic that has been storing the embryos said Thursday it will not release to embryos to either party until a ruling from the court on the injunction.

McLaughlin's attorney, Albert Watkins, said his client planned all along to implant the remaining embryos when she was physically ready.

Contact information for the Lamberts, who live in California, was not immediately available.