Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara is being sued by her own fertilized eggs, according to court papers obtained by New York Post's Page Six. The lawsuit, which was filed in Louisiana yesterday, lists female embryos "Emma'' and "Isabella" as plaintiffs. It's the latest move by Vergara's ex-fiance Nick Loeb to gain custody of the embryos, which the couple created in 2013 when they were still dating.
"The new lawsuit contends that Emma and Isabella, by not being born, have been deprived of an inheritance from a trust that has been created for them in Louisiana, according to sources," Page Six reports. "It asks that the frozen embryos be given to Loeb so that they can live and receive the trust set up for them, which would fund, among other things, their health care and education, sources said."
A third party, James Carbonnet, is listed as another plaintiff and the embryos' "trustee."
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The complaint also argues that a contract the former lovers signed be voided because it violated laws in both California and Louisiana. According to People, the agreement indicated that "no unilateral action can be taken with regard to the embryos unless both parties consent." It did not, however, outline what would happen if the couple separated. Vergara's attorney told People she'd like to keep the eggs frozen "indefinitely."
Sean B. Tipton, chief advocacy and policy officer at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, calls Loeb's lawsuit "a ridiculous publicity stunt."
"It's offensive to the thousands of Americans who are struggling with infertility," he tells Broadly. "We don't expect [the suit] to have any impact because it is of no legal consequence. We expect it to be immediately dismissed."
If it isn't, however, the suit could have huge implications for the fight for abortion rights in the US. Because they're named and listed in the complaint as plaintiffs, the embryos appear to be attributed personhood. It's a move that falls in line with anti-abortion activists' belief that life begins at conception. Historically, most courts have treated embryos as marital property, the New York Times explains, but anti-abortion activists would like to see that change.
In 2014, Loeb, a businessman, sued Vergara directly for custody of the embryos. In an op-ed he penned last year for the New York Times, he wrote: "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?"
Vergara responded to Loeb's suit in part by saying in an interview that she believes it's "selfish" to bring children into the world without parents who get along. She added: "I've been working very hard for 20 years to get to this point where I am. I don't want to allow this person to take more advantage of my career and try to promote himself."
Loeb also admitted in his Times write-up that a past girlfriend had an abortion. When Vergara's legal team asked to question her and another ex who'd also had an abortion, Loeb refused to reveal their names. Vergara's attorney Fred Silberberg told Page Six, "Oddly, Loeb wants us to believe that he supports a woman's right to privacy and to make a choice concerning reproduction. However, he seems to believe that his celebrity ex-fiancée, Sofía Vergara, does not have those same rights, especially if it means giving him more public exposure."
Loeb has since dropped his previous lawsuit after a California judge ruled in favor of Vergara's request to identify those previous girlfriends. He told Page Six: "I would rather go to jail than reveal the names. I believe we have to protect a woman's right to privacy."