Will Personhood Legislation Negatively Impact IVF?

Since the beginning of this year, 11 states and two federal bills have been introduced proposing “personhood” legislation. These include federal bills HR 586 and HR 681, and state bills in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, has a summary page with details of each proposed bill available here.

Beginning in 2008, states across the country have introduced “personhood” measures calling for their governments to grant legal personhood to every human from the moment of conception. This would essentially declare all embryos to be full humans with inalienable rights. All past efforts have failed, but new proposals continue to spring up.

These bills present a huge threat to reproductive medicine: if they are passed, citizens diagnosed with infertility will likely find it much more difficult to receive treatment. Many assisted reproductive technologies, especially in vitro fertilization, could be considered to violate these personhood bills, and would no longer be available to couples struggling with infertility.

This conflict is due to the nature of IVF: multiple eggs are often fertilized in order to increase each patient’s chance of successful implantation, and provide the best possible pregnancy outcomes. After being kept in the lab to develop for a few days, embryology specialists select the healthiest embryo most likely to result in a successful pregnancy to transfer. Any remaining embryos are often cryopreserved for later use by the couple, in case of miscarriage or desiring more children.

Bills that declare these embryos to have inalienable rights would preclude them from any potentially-damaging procedures, such as cryopreservation — all fertilized embryos, regardless of their viability in utero, would have to be implanted in the intended mother to avoid possible criminal actions. At the least, this legislation would limit infertility care to practices often not in the best interest of the patient and drastically decrease IVF success rates.

RESOLVE details a full list of concerns this legislation brings to infertility doctors and patients in their ‘Policy on “Personhood” Legislation’ here.

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and RESOLVE all share this position calling for the dismissal of all personhood legislation.

Since its inception in 1978, in vitro fertilization has helped couples all over the world grow their families, with more infertile patients turning to assisted reproductive technologies (ART) every day. A report published in April of this year found that in the United States alone, more than one million babies have been born from IVF or other infertility treatments (CNBC). That’s 1 in every 325 citizens, a figure equal to 146 spectators in the crowd at Yankee stadium each night (U.S. Census, Yankee Stadium).

The proposed legislation would stop this progress in its tracks, denying many infertility patients access to proven medical care even as scientific advancements continue to improve success rates, and ignoring the reality that many couples across the country are increasingly turning to ART for help in growing their families.

We are fortunate in NJ that we at present are not at risk for “personhood” legislation to be passed here.

We in fact live in a state with a mandate for coverage that has just expanded. So if you are in need of a fertility assessment or know that you need ART (assisted reproductive technology) intervention, please reach out to us. We can help you have that family that you seek. Contact us at 973.322.8286 or visit our contact form.

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