So is a fertilized egg a “person” or not? According to Republican lawmakers in Virginia, eggs fertilized in the course of infertility treatments are “exempt” from being considered “persons.” This is rhetorical nonsense at its finest and is the clearest proof that the goal is not to protect “innocent children” but simply to ban abortion.
For those unfamiliar with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), several eggs (or more) are extracted (painfully) from the woman, fertilized with the man’s sperm in a petri dish. After a few days (2-5 depending on the country), several of the embryos are selected according to several criteria that will give the best chance for a successful implantation. The remainder are then frozen for later use if implantation fails or destroyed. That’s one problem for the personhood bill.
A second problem with IVF is that the several selected embryos are all implanted at once. There is no guarantee that an embryo will attach itself to the uterus wall successfully and begin to grow. To maximize the chances, multiple embryos are used in hopes that at least one will take hold. However, it is often the case that more than one survives the procedure, leading to a possibly dangerous amount of embryos. This was the case with the infamous “Octomom”, Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman. The normal procedure is known as selective abortion, where the number is winnowed done to whatever number the parents are most comfortable with. It doesn’t matter how much lipstick you put on that pig, though; it’s still abortion.
Yet, the GOP was willing to make that exception. Why? Possibly to avoid alienating the 1 in 8 couples that cannot conceive naturally. If someone can explain to me the difference between an embryo conceived naturally and one made in a petri dish, I’ll give them a cookie. If they can go further and explain how aborting a single embryo is morally worse than aborting several, I’ll give them a whole box of Girl Scout cookies, instead.
But even the exemption has its own problems. The Wall St. Journal reports that RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is opposed to the bill despite the exemption:
“The reason we’re here today is because Delegate Robert Marshall, the sponsor of this bill, contacted RESOLVE yesterday and he said that Section 7 of HB1 specifically exempts infertility treatment. After thorough investigation we believe he is wrong and the public needs to know it,” said Barbara Collura, RESOLVE’s Executive Director. “Even though assisted conception is currently lawful in Virginia and even mentioned in Virginia Code Section 20-156, HB1 is designed to change that and to make any action that risks a microscopic embryo unlawful. So, Section 7′s supposed exemption for assisted conception is really no protection at all; IVF as practiced to the standard of care will be unlawful. We’re also concerned that ‘lawful assisted conception’ is not a recognized medical term and is ambiguous.”
“With the prospect of intense governmental scrutiny of their medical practices and the threat of civil and criminal sanctions, doctors will not want to practice reproductive medicine in Virginia and will leave,” said RESOLVE Board Chair, Lee Rubin Collins, JD.
As usual, the GOP has not bothered to examine the ramifications of its actions. How many miscarriages will have to be investigated as possible murders? What happens when, on the rare occasion, one fetus cannibalizes another in utero? Do we charge it with fratricide? How far do we take it? What do we do when a particularly overzealous public official decides that a woman cannot eat certain foods because they are not healthy for a developing fetus? There have already been several cases of women being arrested because they were considering an abortion. And that’s in places where it’s legal!
And the fake culture war rages on.
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