"Technology and science are leaping way ahead of the law," says TIME legal reporter Alain Sanders. "The law is struggling mightily to catch up and to deal with these scientific developments, all of which are putting strain on the principle on which our legal system is based, which is the notion of personal autonomy and personal responsibility. These new technological developments challenge the idea of personal autonomy and create a situation in which a person may no longer control their ultimate destiny."
In fact, it is the notion of personal autonomy to which the New Jersey court turned in deciding this case. The ruling calls on language from Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case cementing a woman's sovereignty over her reproductive capabilities. And while the cases are miles apart in technical terms, they follow similar philosophical paths, and raise equally fundamental questions the problematic idea of "owning" an embryo.
In the end, however, such cases may center around parental rather than reproductive rights. After all, should a man faced with a similar situation after a divorce, his ex-wife decides to use the embryos he helped create to have a child be thus compelled to become a biological father? Other courts considering similar cases have ruled consistently that no one, male or female, should be forced into such parenthood without their express consent. Both ex-wives and ex-husbands have been barred from turning embryos from their former marriage into the seeds of a new family without the consent of their ex. And it would be a very big person indeed who could stomach the idea of donating genetic material to a union they may want nothing to do with.