The way the media reports it, it is a freakish story. Two well-known Hollywood celebrities, Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb, are involved in what amounts to a custody battle over frozen embryos that they had conceived together, through in vitro fertilization, back when they were an item. Vergara, a major star known for her role in Modern Family, is now engaged to marry yet another celebrity. She allegedly wants to thaw, and thus destroy, the embryos; she certainly wants to prevent their implantation and birth. This has been treated by most commentators as a perfectly reasonable determination.
But Loeb, the father, isn’t in accord with the Spirit of the Age on this point. He actually has the temerity to refer to the embryos as his “girls” and boldly insists that he wants to save their lives.
When the story broke, wannabe celebrities—that is, reporters in the entertainment field—immediately strove to establish their progressive credentials by condemning Loeb’s absurd concern for human life. Lisa Guerrero, of Inside Edition, tweeted: “#NickLoeb is the ultimate jilted, obsessive, controlling ex. . . .” What? Value of human life? Was Nick Loeb nuts?
And Kirsten Caires, of the prestigious philosophical journal People, tweeted: “Hey #NickLoeb you’re mental.”
A column in The New York Post even demanded that Loeb shut up about “Sofia’s eggs” as if the in vitro fertilization had never occurred.
None of the celebrity journalists paused to consider how the very existence of the contested human embryos called into question the assumptions at the heart of that other troublesome embryonic issue:
• Advocates of the right to abortion obsessively appeal to a woman’s right to control her own body. But the disputed embryos are not and never were in Vergara’s Hollywood body.
• Advocates of the right to abortion often insist—contrary to scientific fact—that the targeted human embryo or fetus is itself a part of the maternal body, like a spare liver or maybe a third kidney. But how could this be the case when Nick Loeb’s girls are alive and in existence completely apart from Vergara’s body?
• Advocates of the right to abortion typically assert that the father has no say at all about the continuation or termination of a pregnancy. But how could this be the case when Loeb, just like Vergara, was required to sign a “form directive” by “ART Reproductive Center, Inc.”?
Beyond these, there are so many contradictions inherent in the media critique of Nick Loeb that it is impossible to list them here. One point—obvious but beautiful—was first indicated by S.E. Cupp, C.N.N. contributor and author of Losing Our Religion. Cupp remarks that society is always complaining about absentee fathers, and yet, when a father such as Nick Loeb weighs in on the fate of his offspring, these same complainants wail that he’s being way too concerned! Why can’t he just be a good father when the mother wants him to be—and a cool, detached sperm donor when that’s more to her liking?
In this context, the word “mother,” though accurate, is a trifle disconcerting. Sofia Vergara’s only claim on the frozen embryos is that she is their mother, but that’s exactly what she has no intention of being.
For his own part, Nick Loeb is unequivocal in his application of pro-life principles to his bizarre situation. “I’ve always believed that life begins at conception,” he told CNN. “How else would I define what two embryos are that happen to be female? I can’t say these are female property. These are lives. And they’re on a journey and a pathway to being born.” Loeb appears more prepared to take heat for pro-life principles than many politicians elected with pro-life support.
Loeb also appears to have a better legal case than has generally been reported. His amended complaint argues convincingly that the “form directive” imposed by ART does not constitute a contract, since after all it was not negotiated between the parties, nor was there any offer of an alternative to it. Loeb presents evidence that Vergara herself has referred to their offspring as “girls” and in the past agreed that they would be brought to term. Indeed, an unsuccessful attempt was earlier made to do just this with another of their embryos.
Many observers in the liberal herd predicted that Loeb’s amended complaint wouldn’t even be admitted. It has been admitted, and it introduces volumes of significant evidence to support his case.
More important, the amended complaint makes the ground-breaking argument that the court should apply a “balancing test” that involves not only the conflicting interests of mother and father but also “the State’s interest in potential life.” This interest, supported by California statute and by decisions of the State and U.S. Supreme Courts, has never been introduced into such a case before. If it ends up exerting an important influence on the outcome, the argument may save the lives of many frozen embryos, including the so-called “snowflake” babies, embryos conceived in vitro as extras and never chosen for development.
All this good news is, of course, hard to disentangle from the general insight that the dispute between Nick Loeb and Sofia Vergara is indeed a freakish story. It is freakish not, as the mass media will tell you, because the father is trying to save the lives of his offspring, but because the new reproductive technologies, designed to supply unlimited personal choice without responsibility, inevitably result in crazed controversies whose resolution requires wisdom surpassing Solomon’s. Loeb’s and Vergara’s case doesn’t even involve the problem of the egg donor, so cannily framed by Jennifer Lahl and the other insightful folks at the Center for Bio-Ethics and Culture. It is for this reason a lot simpler than many other applications of in vitro fertilization and of associated techniques.
But simple it ain’t. Two of the beautiful people fall in love and head to the IVF center. They conceive a number of embryos. “Honey, when I think of you and our future, I think of cryopreservation! How do I love thee? Let me count the tubes!” Then the poor couple falls out of love, but the embryos are still there. The busy mom extends her right to control her own body into regions as distant from her body as they are from Timbuktu or the lost kingdom of El Dorado. And a cast of dozens rises to affirm the ubiquity of the maternal body. The chorus even refers to the frozen embryos as unfertilized eggs. Hey, what do facts mean once love has gone?
It remains much to his credit that, in the midst of this mess, and facing a barrage of unrestrained abuse from the partisans of disposability, Nick Loeb has his mind focused on the lives for which he is responsible. He recognizes that no one has a right to a dead baby.