ThinkProgress has been reporting on the disturbing campaign by radical anti-abortion groups to pass “personhood” amendments to state constitutions that would define life as beginning the moment an egg is fertilized. These laws would not only criminalize abortion, but outlaw common forms of contraception as well.
Now the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg reports on another consequence of this supposedly “pro-life” measure: it could ban couples from conceiving children through in vitro fertilization (IVF):
In September, Mississippi’s Supreme Court ruled that a ballot initiative to amend the state’s constitution to define embryos as persons could go forward in November. Since then, Dr. Randall Hines, one of four physicians in the state who perform in vitro fertilization, has been fielding panicked calls from women with fertility problems. “We have patients calling us who are extremely anxious,” he says. “If they are contemplating IVF, they’re asking, ‘Do I need to go ahead and do it right now, before this becomes law?’” [...]
The so-called Personhood Amendment won’t outlaw all IVF, but it could drastically change how it’s practiced, making it less effective and more dangerous. “It’s certainly possible that certain IVF practices would become illegal,” says Hines. “It could alter the way an individual patient and physician would interact. Quite honestly nobody knows what would happen, because this is uncharted territory.
Hines has been trying to reassure his patients, but also tells them that getting started on IVF treatments before Mississippi voters decide on Amendment 26 “wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
Surprising as it may seem that “pro-life” activists would want to stop couples who desperately want children from conceiving, Goldberg notes that it’s no coincidence that personhood laws would prohibit IVF. Keith Mason, the 30-year-old president of Personhood USA, acknowledges that should these initiatives pass, “it would ban some current practices of IVF.” He explains his disapproval of the IVF process: “The creation of 30 or 60 embryos and then picking through them to see which ones are most likely boys or girls, or basically looking at the ones you want to give life to and destroying the rest.”
Mason has also been transparent about his desire to have personhood laws ban birth control as well. “Certainly women, my wife included, would want to know if the pills they’re taking would kill a unique human individual,” he told NPR.
Although IVF has long been a safe and accepted practice for helping couples struggling with infertility to get pregnant, religious extremists have condemned it for allowing doctors to “play God.” Ironically, the personhood movement that claims to want to stop the “destruction of life” actually wants to prevent it from being created. Around 58,000 American IVF babies are born each year, comprising more than 1 percent of all births in the U.S.