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Couple Battles Over Embryos

A separated couple is locked in a legal battle over who has the rights to embryos they created before they decided to divorce, reports Correspondent John Davis of CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago.

Cook County Circuit Judge Gerald Bender has issued a temporary restraining order barring Margaret Hale from implanting two frozen embryos against her husband's wishes. The current dispute stems from the couple's divorce proceedings.

Hale's estranged husband, Todd Ginestra, obtained the restraining order on Aug. 6 to prevent her from using the embryos. According to the Chicago Tribune, the genetic material was created in February at Highland Park Hospital's In-Vitro Fertilization Center.

Ginestra, 32, says he never agreed to have the embryos frozen and doesn't want his wife to use them without his consent.


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Court artist's rendering of Margaret Hale.

Hale, 35, would not comment on the ruling, but issued an affidavit stating that she is "opposed to the destruction of embryos ... as I believe in the sanctity of life."

The case is the first of its kind in Illinois, legal experts say.

Outside the courtroom on Monday, Hale's mother told reporters that she considers the embryos to be "children" and that she is against destroying them.

"That monster is wanting to kill them," Maureen K. Hale said, referring to her son-in-law. "And they're defenseless little babies."

At the center of the dispute is a contract the couple signed before the embryos were created. David Paskula, a family-law expert who has been assigned to assist the court, says the agreement contains contradictory statements.

While the contract says the couple agreed to have the embryos frozen, a handwritten note attached to the papers makes the opposite statement. However, the contract has not entered into the court record.

Ginestra's lawyer, James Shaffer, has argued in court papers that Hale should not be impregnated with the embryos against his client's wishes. The reason, Shaffer says, is that Ginestra would be financially responsible for the children.

A hearing on Hale's request to lift the restraining order is planned for September.