Woman gets embryos over ex-boyfriend’s objection

CHICAGO — A Cook County judge on Friday awarded custody of frozen embryos to a 42-year-old Chicago woman over the objections of her ex-boyfriend who said it violates his right to not procreate.

In 2009, Karla Dunston, a doctor who lives in the city, began dating Jacob Szafranski, a 32-year-old firefighter, paramedic and nurse from nearby Elgin, Ill. A few months into their relationship Dunston was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy that would ultimately destroy her fertility.

She testified that she longed to have a biological child and asked Szafranski to provide his sperm so that embryos could be frozen prior to her treatment, and he did so, despite neither of them thinking the relationship had long-term prospects. A co-parent agreement giving Dunston control of the embryos was never signed, though.

The couple broke up in May 2010. Szafranski said he changed his mind about being a father after friends and a girlfriend reacted negatively, according to court documents.

Judge Sophia H. Hall said Friday in a written ruling that oral agreements between Szafranski and Dunston concerning use of the embryos stand and added that Dunston’s desire to have a child outweighs Szafranski’s desire to not procreate.

“Karla’s desire to have a biological child in the face of the impossibility of having one without using the embryos outweighs Jacob’s privacy concerns, which are now moot,” the judge said in the ruling, “and his speculative concern that he might not find love with a woman because he unhesitatingly agreed to help give Karla her last opportunity to fulfill her wish to have a biological child.”

Dunston’s attorney, Abram Moore, applauded the ruling.

“Using these pre-embyros is important to our client, but it is equally important to her to set a precedent in Illinois which helps other women cancer survivors who find themselves in this heart-wrenching situation,” he said in an email.

Szafranski’s attorney, Brian Schroeder, said they plan to appeal the decision.

“We’re obviously very unhappy,” he said.

Schroeder said lawyers for both parties have agreed that the embryos should not be implanted in Dunston until the appeal is completed.

Through an attorney, Dunston previously has said she was not seeking any support, financial or otherwise, from Szafranski.

In 1985, 260 babies were born through assisted reproductive technology; in 2010, the number topped 61,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Yet only a few state higher courts have addressed, with mixed results, what to do with frozen embryos once a couple has separated. Legal experts said they would be watching to see how Illinois handles the complex issue.

A Cook County trial court had previously ruled in favor of Dunston but Szafranski appealed, and the higher court sent the case back with a new framework: The dispute should be decided based on contracts and agreements between the two parties rather than just who has more compelling interest in the fate of the embryos.

The case went before the Illinois State Supreme Court, which decided not to hear it in September, sending the issue back to the lower court.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Trees and foliage grow at the Rockport State Park on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Rockport, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
When you gets lost hiking in WA, how much does it cost to get rescued? Surprisingly little

Washington’s volunteer search and rescue teams save lives without costly bills.

Riaz Khan finally wins office on his fifth try. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo state House candidate arrested weeks before jumping into race

The misdemeanor domestic violence case against Riaz Khan, a former Mukilteo City Council member, has since been dismissed.

Samantha Grospe helps her son Everett Grospe, 4, pick a book during Lake Stevens Education Foundation Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
United Way delivers 100k free books to Snohomish County kids

Thanks to a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the nonprofit is making free books possible for young kids.

Everett Fire responds to  a medical incident at Northern View Apartments in Everett. (Photo provided by Everett FIre)
Everett firefighters rescue man and dog in fire that displaces 8

It took about an hour for firefighters to extinguish the flames at the Northern View Apartments on Wednesday night.

The Sounder commuter train at Everett Station Wednesday evening on October 9, 2019.   (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Hop a Sounder train from Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds to Mariners games

The next run is Sunday as the M’s face their division foe, the Houston Astros. The train departs Everett at 10:45 a.m.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.