Jewish Women Challenge Kentucky Abortion Ban

The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer had elected officials in many states vowing to protect women’s rights, while other states’ leaders already had so-called “trigger laws” on the books that immediately put restrictive abortion laws into effect. Kentucky, a trigger law state, promptly banned all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with few exceptions and defined life as beginning at conception.

Now three Jewish women from Kentucky, arguing that the new anti-abortion laws are forcing Christian viewpoints upon all women regardless of their religions, have sued the state on the grounds that its abortion ban directly violates their deeply held religious beliefs.

Infertile Women Depend on IVF to Procreate

Due to health reasons, plaintiffs Lisa Sobel, 32, Jessica Kalb, 38, and Sarah Baron, 37, rely upon assisted reproductive technology, specifically in vitro fertilization (IVF), to procreate. According to their religion, and as stated in the lawsuit, “Procreation has a special place in Jewish law, thought, and tradition. While all Abrahamic religions value the divine injunction to ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ Jewish births are of special significance to Jewish people today because of the genocide they suffered during the Holocaust, which destroyed much of world Jewry.” 

As a part of their Jewish faith, the women believe they are obligated to procreate, but with the process of IVF often creating a surplus of embryos, and the state now defining life at conception, IVF has become potentially dangerous legally. The process of IVF often produces multiple embryos, typically more than can be used. If women discard their unused embryos, do they face possible criminal charges for violating Kentucky’s abortion ban? Or do they continue to pay yearly storage fees to keep the embryos frozen via cryopreservation indefinitely to avoid possible prosecution?

Sobel was considering having another baby but now believes that any future IVF procedure and pregnancy could be physically and legally dangerous. She tells the Louisville Courier-Journal, “As a mom, as a woman, this directly affects me, it affects my health care. And then it’s a personal affront to my personal religious views, on top of it.  As somebody who is a person of faith, that’s just wrong to me.”

Kentucky Abortion Ban Threatens Legality of IVF

The lawsuit also states in two of its five counts that the vague and unintelligible verbiage of the Kentucky law provides “a path for the further erosion of reproductive rights.” It creates a “patchwork” of allowable reproductive practices that vary from county to county, with the interpretation of the vague law left up to the prosecutors or judges.

Attorney Ben Potash, representing the women, states in MSN, “Under the laws, it stands today, our clients could potentially be tried and perhaps convicted for capital murder for undergoing in-vitro fertilization. All it takes is one ambitious or vengeful prosecutor.”

Given the new law’s definition of the beginning of life, it is unclear if Sobel would be in legal trouble over any extra embryos, and with its vague terminology, it is unclear if she would have any legal rights to protect her health if she were to become pregnant and there were complications. With her first IVF pregnancy, Sobel says that she almost died during childbirth and goes on to say in the Journal, “Having a natural miscarriage at this point is a risk, because they have to talk to their lawyers, and they have to talk to the other doctors to determine whether this is a naturally occurring miscarriage. By the time they determine that, I could be dead.”

Plaintiff Kalb, who has one child conceived via IVF, has a remainder of nine frozen embryos but does not plan to have nine more children. According to WDRB, Kalb said in a press conference that even though she and her husband want to have more children, they have chosen not to have any more at this time as she does not want to become a criminal. She has yet to decide whether to donate the embryos or discard them. For now, the embryos remain in limbo, frozen in a cryobank, while Kalb must pay an exorbitant annual fee to continue to keep them there.

In her decision to put her pregnancy on hold, she says in MSN, “Now, my greatest fear is that I become pregnant, and I go to a scan, and they say, ‘Your baby is incompatible with life, and we can’t help you.’ Because that’s the reality right now in our state.”

State Abortion Bans May Criminalize IVF

The lawsuit states, “Jewish law (‘halakha’) asked and answered the question of fetal personhood thousands of years ago, and rabbis, commentators, and Jewish legal scholars have repeatedly confirmed these answers the in the intervening millennia.” It goes on to state, “While the fetus is deserving of some level of respect under the halakha, the birth giver takes precedence. Jews have never believed that life begins at conception. This belief belongs to certain Christian groups.”

The Kentucky women believe the new abortion laws infringe upon their right to practice their Jewish faith and are in direct violation of Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion.” In the Jewish faith, life is not defined at conception but rather at the moment the child exits the womb; therefore, frozen embryos are not considered life. Although it is not uncommon to discard unused embryos during the IVF process, according to the language of the Kentucky ban, intended parents and physicians may incur legal prosecution for doing so. In other words, Jewish intended parents could be prosecuted for following their religious beliefs, whether that is to discard their unused embryos or make a decision based on their religion if there is a complication during pregnancy.

Although similar cases have been filed in Florida and Indiana over abortion laws infringing upon religious freedoms in the Jewish community, this is the first case to pertain to IVF. The suit highlights an all-too-possible reality in which IVF and other reproductive technologies might face legal prosecution in the future.

The Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned Roe v. Wade and 50 years of legal precedent, has created potential hesitation for future IVF-intended parents and trapped thousands of current fertility patients in confusion and uncertainty about where their legal rights stand. This case will likely be only the first of many, as prospective parents, state legislatures, and the courts litigate these issues. If there is any bright spot on the horizon, it is the prospect that Congress could finally act to protect procreative and reproductive freedom. Codifying abortion rights into federal law would help protect both women’s rights to bodily autonomy and religious freedom, creating a definitive process void of state-to-state and county-to-county interpretation of abortion laws while also providing welcome clarity on these related and important assisted reproduction questions.

Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.