PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - In a historic legal case over who gets to keep a divorced couple’s frozen embryos, an Arizona Court of Appeals has decided the mom gets to keep the embryos. But the case is not over yet.
The mother, Ruby Torres, is over the moon at the prospect of getting pregnant one day.
“I was ecstatic. I was jumping up and down and screaming and very, very happy when [my attorney] told me that we won,” she said about hearing the news Thursday morning.
Torres and her ex-husband had created the embryos when they began the process of in vitro fertilization a few years ago, but Torres later found out she had cancer, and had to put her dreams of pregnancy on hold.
Then, her marriage to John Terrell ended in 2016. They went to court to figure out who would get to keep the embryos.
As an attorney herself, Torres knows her case will set precedent in the Grand Canyon State.
“It’s a case of first impression in the state of Arizona,” she said. “This is the first case that’s been heard in Arizona. There are a variety of cases throughout the country, but this is the very first case in Arizona that has set some law.”
The original court order said the couple would have to donate the embryos to a third party for someone else to have a baby. Torres appealed. Oral arguments in the Court of Appeals were last summer, but the court's 2-1 decision in Torres’ favor just came down Thursday. Her ex still has a month to decide whether he’ll appeal up to the state Supreme Court.
“I hope to have the opportunity to have a child. That’s all I wanted,” Torres said.
Terrell would only have full, legal rights as the biological father if Torres were to get pregnant with the embryos as a single woman -- not if she's married to someone else or if she uses a surrogate. Torres isn’t planning on anything life-changing until she knows what her ex-husband’s next move is.
It’s important to note that the state legislature passed a law last year that says, in the case of divorce, the state must award frozen embryos to the spouse who plans to use them to have a baby after the couple splits up. Of course that law doesn’t apply to Torres’ case, which happened before the law went into effect.