news item: personhood and A.R.T.

A little over two years ago my husband and I started the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process. We met with the doctor beforehand and discussed how many embryos we would transfer, and what our options would be for any leftover embryos. Our options for leftover embryos were to a) freeze them, b) donate them to research c) donate them to other couples d) do nothing, allow them to follow the natural course of an embryo in a petri dish, they don’t survive.

That decision, one we have kept private, was very hard for us, as I imagine it is for every couple who goes through IVF. The conversations my husband and I had about this issue though, those conversations were vital – and relationship building – for us. We talked about our faith, our finances, our personal feelings, and our gut instincts on what we felt we wanted to do with any leftover embryos.

There are currently conversations being held in state legislatures of the United States that would seek to make the conversations my husband and I had null. Several state governments in America are seeking to pass “personhood initiatives” which would give full legal rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization and place other restrictions on A.R.T.(Assisted Reproductive Technology) procedures. If passed, depending on the state you lived in, would determine whether you had the right to have that conversation my husband and I had, or even if you could pursue IVF.

This subject is a highly charged one. It is entrenched in the greater debate of abortion in the United States, yet has ramifications for couples seeking A.R.T., couples seeking to preserve fertility due to cancer treatments, couples needing to use egg, sperm, embryo donors, and/or gestational carriers. According to http://www.fertilitylabinsider.com:

“Personhood initiatives are one of the most dangerous threats aimed at public access to fertility and perinatal care, and would stand to severely hinder our ability to treat infertility with most assisted reproductive technologies.”

Personhood initiatives could limit the amount of eggs a doctor could retrieve for an IVF attempt, making those attempts much less likely to succeed and eliminating the possibility of freezing any embryos for future attempts. They could also require couples to freeze all viable embryos indefinitely, incurring years of preservation charges.

This issue is complicated. This is issue is important. There are several articles covering this issue and I am listing a few of them here. We hope you’ll read and comment and let us know what you think!

Personhood initiative articles:

Fertility Lab Insider

Resolve, the American National Infertility Association list of articles on personhood laws

CNN, “Could ‘personhood’ bills outlaw IVF?”

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What do you think about these ‘personhood’ initiatives and their possible impact on couples seeking A.R.T.?

If you live outside of the United States does your country/province/state have laws like this or seeking to pass laws like this?

If laws like this were passed, would it affect your future family planning?

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Comments

  1. I do not wish to sound divisive, but I genuinely struggle when I read or hear folks in the ALI community (specifically those who’ve depended on ART for growing their families) advocating for personhood legislation. It confuses me and hurts a little, if I am honest. I recognize that reproductive choice is a political hot button, that most people–wherever their ideologies fall–are pretty set in their view and tend to be unswayed. I have found that most people supporting personhood initiatives do so from a “pro-life” or “pro-family” ideology–and I can think of few other things that embody the desire to create life and to build family than does ART.

    I was dismayed, although NOT at all surprised to learn during the last US presidential election that Mitt Romney openly supported Paul Ryan’s personhood legislation proposals when Romney has twin grandchildren who are IVF babies. So, like, it’s cool for some people to build their families without cumbersome legislative parameters interfering in their personal lives…but not okay for others? 😦

    • Yeah, my husband and I may need to do IVF in the future, we may not. But the fact that someone else is trying to decide if I even have the right to do pursue that upsets me. A lot.

  2. I don’t know enough about this to make a truly informed comment. I just know in this day and age there is no way our government would make legislation based on from my very limited understanding appears to be religious beliefs. It’s just wrong that anybody thinks they have rights to YOUR body.

  3. This has freaked me out from the first time I heard “personhood.” My daughter is the result of my first IVF cycle. We had 6 viable embryos. We have now transferred 4 of them. We have one live child. We still have 2 frozen. My husband and I have differing views on this. I believe the embryos are my babies. He sees them as a bunch of cells. He doesn’t see a baby until there is a heart beat. OK, I give him that. But I also knew each and every one of those embryos would have an opportunity to grow into a child. The idea that my child could be looked at as some sort of felon because she was a result of an illegal form of reproduction freaks me the eff out.

    I, like Arch Mama, struggled greatly with the whole Romney thing. My husband and I went around and around. He said Romney was just saying what he has to say to get elected. (did I mention my husband is a republican?) I don’t like the idea of the government taking away my right to build a family. Or anyone else’s right to do so. It frightens me. However, my husband said on a federal level, it would never pass. There is too much opposition and it’s too risky for the republican party to try to pass this. I hope to hell he’s right. I’m grateful to live in a state where this type of “bill” would never even come up.

    • Just curious – what would you have done if you had responded super well and had 15+ viable embryos? Would you have given them all a chance? I remember Midwest Mama struggling with this when they were talking about IVF. I mean, octo-mom was someone who wanted to give them all a chance, and some crazy doc let her put 8 back at once. It is something I worry about with IVF, though if we had needed IVF to conceive Stella, I would have 100% done it.

      Bottom line, it’s a tough subject, but it’s one that we each individually should be able to decide about for ourselves – not some suit in Washington.

      • To be honest, I can’t say for sure. I do know before we moved forward with IVF, which btw was a REALLY hard choice for us and took us 3 years to agree to it, my RE agreed to be SUPER DUPER conservative. Our goal was 20 eggs, as research says about 50% are mature, 50% of those fertilize and survive for transfer which would yield us 5 embryos total. If we had harvested more eggs, I would have said freeze half and fertilize half. Destruction of eggs is a much easier thought to process than destroying embryos in my heart and mind. In reality we ended up with 33% of our initial harvest so we were just above our goal of 25%.

        I think this is where those uber conservatives and religious leaders struggle with IVF. Because there are people out there like OctoFREAK and her CRAZYASS doctor. I’m grateful my RE is who she is and is willing to support us in our decisions on our family building choices.

  4. Thank you for this post. These are questions that go around our dinner table quite often. My husband and I live in Canada, where the laws are a little different from the US. Abortion is legal in our country and personhood is not assigned until a child is born. However, in our province, there is a member of parliament trying to revive the notion of assigning personhood to fertilized ova. Scares the #$@ out of me. Our Prime Minister is rather right wing conservative (as Canadian standards go) and while he has largely ignored this particular member of parliament’s bids, we live in fear that he will someday soon get into reproductive rights and deem that personhood should be assigned to embryos. Imagine the repercussions for someone having a miscarriage: they could be jailed! It makes for a crazy world.

    We follow what is going on down in the US with great interest. Of course, these issues are very important to us. They are important to us in terms of political and moral debates that healthy societies should be having. But more than that, the issues are important to us because we currently have a frozen embryo in the US as a result of our last DE cycle. If laws suddenly change, what will it mean for our frozen embryo, and our chance at a second child?

    It makes me angry that people who are not women, who do not have a good grasp on reproduction and who have absolutely no inkling of an idea what it’s like to be infertile be called to make such decisions. I hope whoever brings forth such ludicrous ideas gets voted out of office promptly.

    • How scary to have to worry about your embryo in the US! I often have said that if this was a “men’s issue” that would potentially put limits on a man’s ability to reproduce, that we wouldn’t even be having these debates bec no one would dare suggest a law that impacts a man’s “right” to reproduce.

  5. This post makes some false statements.
    >>Personhood initiatives could limit the amount of eggs a doctor could retrieve for an IVF attempt,
    Wrong. Eggs are eggs and not human beings so the number extracted is irrelevant to the issue of personhood.

    >>eliminating the possibility of freezing any embryos for future attempts

    Recognizing embryos as persons doesn’t necessarily imply that embryos can’t be frozen. It does imply that you can’t desert your offspring in the freezer.

    Freezing eggs instead of embryos is the right way to go. See http://www.fertilehope.org/learn-more/cancer-and-fertility-info/parenthood-options-women.cfm#TID5

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