Maureen Kass cannot have children naturally because, while in her mother's womb, she was exposed to a drug that causes serious problems during pregnancy and delivery.

Kass and husband Steven tried to have a baby in 1993 through in-vitro fertilization, with her sister agreeing to carry the baby.The procedure failed, and the couple soon split up. Kass still wants to use the divorced couple's five frozen embryos to have children.

But the state's highest court ruled in a 7-0 decision Thursday that an agreement signed by the couple in 1993 requires the embryos to be donated to research and then destroyed.

"We're bitterly disappointed at this point," Kass' attorney, Vincent Stempel, said. "Mrs. Kass wanted to have a child." Her former husband's attorney did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The Court of Appeals found the agreement to be valid. It stated the embryos were to be donated if both parties did not agree to use them.

It was the first case of its kind to reach the appeals court in New York, and courts in various states have been wrestling with the question of frozen embryos and divorce for years.

The case could have an effect on the estimated 20,000 frozen embryos subject to dispute across the country. In all, there are estimated to be about 100,000 embryos in storage nationwide.