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In Light of Her Divorce, A Look Back on Sofia Vergara’s Legal Battle Over Frozen Embryos

Vergara was entagnled in a seven-year dispute with ex-fiance Nick Loeb, who wanted to raise their frozen embryos and have the actress declared an egg donor

Actress Sofia Vergara announced she and her husband Joe Manganiello are divorcing after seven years of marriage.

News of the couple’s split broke on July 19 with subsequent reports claiming Vegara and the True Blood actor had a “passionate, all-encompassing romance” but ultimately grew apart. People magazine reported a source said that “they had differences in how their lives should go forward and it caused stress.”

Only time will tell if this breakup becomes as sordid as Vergara’s split from Nick Loeb – which led to a public battle over embryos they had created and frozen.

The Daily Mail reported on July 20 that Loeb is hoping he and Vergara will be able to “reconcile a friendship” and that he is “hoping that she will one day have a change of heart about the embryos.”

Vergara and Loeb got engaged in 2012 after two years of dating. Both had been previously divorced. Vergara, who had one son from her first marriage, was 40 years old at the time and Loeb was 37. 

Vergara announced on May 23, 2014 that the engagement had been called off. The Columbian actress and Loeb were left not to decide what to do about wedding plans – a date had never been set – but rather what to do with the embryos they had created after consulting with a fertility doctor.

Loeb authored an opinion piece for The New York Times titled “Our Frozen Embryos Have a Right to Live.” He stated that he filed a complaint in California in August of 2014 in order to gain custody of the embryos. 

I wanted to keep this private, but recently the story broke to the world,” he wrote, noting that his former fiancee had become a household name with the debut of the television series Modern Family

Loeb wrote that “embryonic custody disputes raise important questions about life, religion and parenthood.”

When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property?” he wrote. “Does one person’s desire to avoid biological parenthood (free of any legal obligations) outweigh another’s religious beliefs in the sanctity of life and desire to be a parent? A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects. Shouldn’t a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects?”

The actor and businessman said that he and Vergara signed a contract agreeing to use the embryo and surrogate in 2013 and that the embryos could be brought to term with the consent of both parties. Loeb said he filed to have the contract voided as it did not say what would happen to the embryos if the contract was voided “as California law requires.”

He also said they split up because he issued Vergara an ultimatum after “it became clear once more that parenthood was much less urgent for her than it was for me.” He wrote that lawyers for the actress had said she planned to keep the embryos frozen indefinitely.

“I take the responsibility and obligation of being a parent very seriously. This is not just about saving lives; it is also about being pro-parent,” concluded Loeb.

Vergara has repeatedly stated that she does not want to implant the embryos in a surrogate or have children with her DNA being raised without her. 

The legal battle continued for seven years. At one point, Loeb filed against Vergara in Louisana, which recognizes embryonic rights. 

A judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court ultimately ruled in Vergara’s favor in April of 2021. The court ruled the contract Loeb and Vergara signed was valid and that Loeb cannot move forward with a surrogate without the actress’s consent. The court granted Vergara a permanent injunction. 

Most recently, Loeb filed a lawsuit against the fertility clinic that he and Vergara used in Los Angeles Superior Court in April of 2023, arguing that the clinic did not meet its legal obligation when it failed to inform them about what would happen if they broke up before the embryos were implanted in a surrogate. 

“I never would have gone forward with creating what Sofia and I regarded as lives if I knew that she would not consent, or that she wanted to thaw and destroy the embryos, in the event of a breakup,” Loeb said, per LA Magazine. “I am pro-life and pro-parenthood and my religious views are such that I believe that life begins at conception… Throughout the course of our relationship, I expressed these views to Sofia, who similarly expressed to me that she was a devout Catholic and therefore also believed that life begins at conception. She told me that she regarded embryos as ‘lives.’”

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