Health and Education, Policy Updates

Protect Birth Control Access and IVF

by WREN Staff on Jan 24, 2017

Last week at our WREN Happy Hour, advocates had a chance to ask our staff members about our 2017-18 Policy Agenda and how they could stay involved in the legislative process. We are extremely optimistic about this session and our ability to pass and support crucial legislation. There was one question we couldn’t avoid: Has anything been prefiled/filed this session that is dangerous to women?

Unfortunately, there have been two so-called “personhood” bills introduced this session, one in the House, and one in the Senate.  A “personhood” bill, if passed, would grant full legal rights to a fertilized egg by defining “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, before pregnancy has occurred.  In fact, pregnancy only begins when and if the fertilized egg attaches to a woman’s uterus and begins to grow — implantation.

Defining a newly fertilized egg as a “person” means that the most widely used forms of contraception like the pill and IUDs would be banned because hormonal contraceptives work BEFORE the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. Furthermore, a “personhood” bill could even subject a woman who suffers a pregnancy-related complication or miscarriage to extensive criminal investigation and jail time for potential charges of reckless endangerment or homicide.

According to WREN Strategic Technical Advisor and Charleston fertility lawyer, Stephanie Brinkley, this bill would also prohibit In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

“Just when Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) has given hope to future families, ‘personhood’ legislation would infringe upon the constitutional rights of individuals turning to ART to build their families by medically assisted means. Such action would not only be detrimental to South Carolina families, but also to military personnel within our borders who just earned the privilege of IVF treatment under the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015 S 469 and H.R. 3365 to fulfill their dream of parenthood.

Consequently, if embryos were granted the status of full personhood, any action or procedure that puts an embryo at risk could be a criminal offense.  This could result in prohibitions against (i) freezing embryos (ii) discarding unused embryos and/or (iii) undergoing IVF.

Such prohibitions on freezing embryos or discarding unused embryos could prompt doctors to limit the number of embryos they create.  This would increase the chances of needing to perform multiple egg retrievals, which are expensive, painful, and, as a surgical procedure done under anesthesia, arguably risky.  Additionally, prohibitions could increase the number of multiple births and its associated health concerns if all embryos created during IVF cycles had to be transferred to the woman’s womb.

From a fertility attorney’s perspective, “personhood” legislation:

The cumulative effect is that such outcomes would deprive individuals control over their fertility and deprive women control over their bodies.”

While we continue to urge WREN advocates to support our legislation, it is also crucial to consider what pieces of legislation we must stand against.  We will continue to keep you updated on when and if these bills see any movement, and how you can get involved.

Thanks for standing with us!

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