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Washington Wire (What's Happening Regarding ART in DC)

Posted Jun 12 2009 11:57pm
Presidential election years often see federal policy making slow to a crawl. At the same time, however, the pace seems to increase in state capitals throughout the country. This issue of Washington Wire will not deal with Washington at all, but will share some of the developments from the states.

There are efforts in a number of states to codify some form of "life begins at conception/embryo rights" measures into state constitutions. The most pressing efforts seem to be in Colorado and Montana. In both of these states, the proamendment forces are gathering signatures in an effort to get the amendment on the ballot for the November elections.

In Montana, ASRM is participating in the opposition effort. The coalition there is working actively to discourage people from signing the petition in hopes of keeping the measure off the ballot. There are similar efforts at various stages in Mississippi, Michigan, Illinois, and South Carolina as well. At present, this movement does not appear to have the support of the most prominent of the anti-choice groups, which may make it more difficult for them to gather the resources they need to be successful, but they are still an important concern. Clearly, such amendments could constitute a serious threat to some practices in reproductive medicine. ASRM will pay close attention to these efforts and will keep you informed.

Georgia's legislature has tabled a proposed embryo rights amendment and is instead pursuing a bill titled, "The Human Embryo Protection Act" that 1) would make procedures other than straight egg/sperm combination IVF illegal, 2) would give "personhood" status to embryos 3) declares that embryos are not property and provides that if/when patients give up their parental rights to the embryos, the embryos must be made available for “adoption”, 4) sets standards for physicians and labs, 5) allows courts to appoint guardians for frozen embryos - at the request of doctors or progenitors, 6) and prohibits the intentional destruction of embryos. Despite providing all of these "rights" for embryos, the bill also makes it clear that they do not have inheritance rights until birth. More bills to control embryo disposition have been introduced in West Virginia, Indiana, and New Jersey.

West Virginia's bill prohibiting the destruction of embryos states plainly that the goal of the legislation is to enable an embryo to "live out its full life." The bill does not allow embryos to be moved out of state for destruction, but allows them to be moved to other facilities for preservation or transferred to married couples for "adoption." Indiana has a bill that would prohibit the destruction of an abandoned human embryo and would permit its "adoption." Other bills to control embryo disposition have been introduced in West Virginia, Indiana, and New Jersey.

New Jersey has also seen a bill introduced that would severely restrict ART services. It requires that the motivation for using IVF to create an embryo be the intention to implant it in a married woman's body. It prohibits the creation of more embryos than are reasonably expected to be transferred and prohibits the deliberate destruction of embryos. No research may be conducted on IVF embryos. If a couple with embryos decides not to use them (in the case of divorce or family completion), the embryos become wards of the state to be "adopted" out.

There have been various kinds of insurance mandate bills in Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, Tennessee and Virginia.

Minnesota is also again attempting to update its sperm donor law by substituting the word "partner" for "husband" and adding provisions to recognize the recipient of a donated egg as a parent. This measure has made some progress in previous years but never obtained final passage. As you can see, there are state legislators who would like to make it difficult for physicians to help patients build their families. The good news is that most of these bills will not move forward at all, let alone obtain final passage and become law. ASRM makes every effort to monitor and, when appropriate, weigh in on these measures. However, it is very difficult to do so with our limited resources. We urge all of you to stay involved in your states.
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