A British woman has made her final appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court to save her frozen embryos, pleading that their destruction is a violation of her "right to family life" guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.
Natallie Evans, a British subject left infertile by her treatment for ovarian cancer, is fighting for the right to bear her children, six embryos, conceived through IVF treatment with her partner at the time, Howard Johnston. However, after the couple's separation, Mr. Johnston withdrew his consent in 2002 asking the fertility clinic to destroy the embryos. Currently, the United Kingdom's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act requires consent from both man and woman at every stage of IVF treatment until the embryos become implanted in the womb, and requires embryos to be destroyed within 5 years after one party withdraws consent.
For years, Ms. Evans has fought relentlessly to save her embryos, and having exhausted all appeals through the UK courts and suffering a 5-2 defeat from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) earlier in March. However, her last avenue of appeal rests with the ECHR's 17 member Grand Chamber which begins hearing the case today and is expected to render a decision by early next year.
"I've got nowhere else to go after this. This is the end of the legal battle," Ms. Evans told the BBC's Heaven and Earth show. "Those embryos are potential children to me. I'm their mum and I'm their voice."
"No one is speaking up for them so I'm speaking up for them," she said.
James Grigg, the lawyer representing Mr. Johnston has stated that the law "clearly" stipulates the embryos may not be implanted without Mr. Johnston's consent.
"In this case, if Howard's consent was removed and if Natallie Evans chose to proceed with IVF, he would be forced into becoming a parent," stated Mr. Grigg.
Nevertheless, Ms. Evans and her lawyers will argue to the Grand Chamber that Mr. Johnston had already consented to their conception, storage and use, and should not be allowed to change his mind; she will also argue that denying her children constitutes a breach of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees the "right to family life" and breaks discrimination laws since the fate of her embryos has been determined entirely by her former partner.