Personhood. . . how is it defined?


Happy New Year everyone!
2011 was an awesome year! We had our best pregnancy rates ever for IVF! (67% of all embryo transfer procedures in patients less than 35 years old resulted in a clinical pregnancy!) We welcomed another reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Dana Ambler to our staff. She and her family are adjusting well to our area. (Although I do think the hot and humid weather this summer was a bit of a shock).
If any of you have followed the “personhood amendments” recently in the news, I am interested in your thoughts. In essence, “pro-life” advocates have a new means to legislate against abortion. They have proposed in numerous states (Mississippi, Arkansas, Nevada, Ohio, and others) that a life begins at fertilization. Their stance is that a one day old embryo is the same as a 30 year old person.
Now I’m treading in dangerous waters here given that across the U.S., 50% are pro-choice and 50% are pro life. I am absolutely not about to debate abortion. But a law that attempts to make abortion illegal should simply do that. Make it illegal. This law has far more implications that affect women’s health in numerous ways. IVF would be illegal. Embryo could not be cryopreserved for any reason. If my patient had an ectopic pregnancy that was rupturing and causing her to bleed, I could not remove it since I would be “killing a person”. Birth control pills and IUD’s that inhibit implantation would be considered illegal. Dropping a dish with a one day old embryo in the lab would be equivalent to murder. If a patient dies and has two children, but three frozen embryos, do the embryos have the ability to inherit 1/5 of their estate? Do the frozen embryos around the country have to be immediately transferred to a uterus somewhere?
This is my blog. So I can rant about whatever – and I really hope I don’t offend anyone. But I hate politics! Lawmakers frequently write a bill to address one issue but “add on” numerous other unrelated items to “sneak in” their pet projects as a new law. This is no different. They are sneaking in anti-abortion laws by a change in definition of a person. Pro-life advocates should continue to stand firm in a stance against what they feel is right. But jeopardizing the health of women and removing the rights of infertile couples to build their family is wrong.
IVF can be a very ethically and emotionally charged subject. (and I love to discuss its merits with anyone). But IVF is one of the most “pro-family” technologies that exist! My patients are stable, loving couples who simply want to build their family. Just as doctors need to know the side effects of the medicines they prescribe, lawmakers need to know the side effects of the laws they pass. In this case, the side effects can be very detrimental to women’s health.

Happy new year to all of you! I hope 2012 is a great one.
Dr S


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