The Supreme Court has begun hearing an appeal by a woman who wants to have three frozen embryos implanted in her, against the wishes of her estranged husband.

The embryos were created after the 43-year-old woman and her husband underwent IVF treatment in 2002.

The woman, who already had one child, became pregnant and had a child as a result of the IVF.

Shortly afterwards the couple separated.

The court was told today that the case concerns the fate of three surplus embryos not used in the original impregnation, which have been in frozen storage in a Dublin clinic since February 2002 and which the woman now wishes to have implanted.

Her now estranged husband has said he does not want any more children and is opposed to the embryos being returned to her.

In November 2006 the High Court rejected the woman's argument that the embryos are protected by the Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which protects the ‘right to life’ of the unborn.

The High Court ruled that the embryos are not ‘unborn’ within the meaning of the Constitution.

Both the woman and her estranged husband were in the Supreme Court this afternoon for the appeal.

Gerard Hogan SC, for the woman, said he would be arguing firstly that the husband had given his express consent to the future use of the frozen embryos because he had signed forms giving his consent to the IVF treatment.

If he lost on that argument, Mr Hogan said he would argue that the husband had given his implied consent to the use of the frozen embryos.

If that was rejected, he would argue that the husband was precluded from refusing consent to the use of the frozen embryos by virtue of consenting to and taking part in the IVF process.

If that was rejected he would turn to the constitutional argument that the embryos were covered by the protection given to the unborn under the Constitution.

Mr Hogan said the State owed a duty to facilitate the implantation of embryos in the context of this case.