Whilst America, and most of the world, are still reeling from the Supreme Court ruling ending the national right to an abortion by overturning Roe vs Wade, the thoughts of many are now turning to their fertility rights.
Alarmingly, the wording of the new anti-abortion ruling could be interpreted to mean that creating new embryos in a laboratory setting, as happens during assisted conception, could be illegal
As new mum, Virginia McFeely has told USA Today News, “So many people think this court ruling is about the singular issue of a right to abortion. And it’s just not.” The 37 year old and her husband welcomed their son in June 2020, after two years of IVF treatments.
She says, “I’ve been screaming about this to anybody who would listen since the whole idea that Roe could be overturned”.
It could mean that millions of Americans now have an added worry to an already overwhelming time – infertility could be made to feel worse by the wording of the ruling in some states. 84,000 babies are born to assisted reproduction techniques in the US each year, but what does the future hold?
The new wording could mean that the fate and legal status of fertilised embryos created and held in laboratories for parents holding out nothing but hope, are now in question
Especially so in states planning to pursue “personhood” laws, which imparts legal rights on embryos and foetuses.
Personhood laws could make it illegal to transport embryos, due to “child abuse” considerations. It could also mean someone is charged with murder for accidentally mishandling an embryo. Far-fetched maybe, but who would’ve thought that Roe vs Wade could be overturned in the first place, in one of the largest economies in the Western world?
States including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Nebraska are already considering what the new anti-abortion laws mean for fertilised eggs. In these Conservative states, religion appears to be driving the considerations – the Catholic Church opposes IVF and some religious groups, including the Illinois Right to Life group, are declaring that “IVF threatens and disregards the dignity and value of the human person”.
The National Right to Life Committee says that this is because of their “opposition to selective reduction”
Quite why this means that individuals and couples don’t have a right to become parents isn’t clear to us.
But what is clear, is the stark contrast of some states making such forward thinking decisions regarding adding IVF coverage to health insurance policies, whilst others are now considering the basic legality of having an IVF procedure since it requires medics to attempt to create several embryos, selecting the most viable and likely to result in a pregnancy.
These decisions will impact the millions of people deciding to undergo IVF in the future, with some potentially exposed to criminal charges for choosing their most viable embryos for a chance at parenthood. It will also impact those turning to IVF after medical treatments that have affected their fertility, such as cancer patients, those who have chosen to delay parenthood, trans individuals and same sex couples. Plus of course, it will potentially affect the estimated 1 million embryos currently in storage.
Consideration most also be given to the women who miscarry an implanted IVF embryo. As Tracy Kubaszewski told USA Today News, after experiencing two such miscarriages, “What if we go this process and I have another miscarriage and it won’t expel and I have to go through what is considered an abortion? I can’t believe that’s something I have to think about.”
Nicki Rhett and her husband are weeks way from welcoming their baby to the world. But they worry about their seven frozen embryos. “At what point do they consider it abortion if we chose not to keep one of those embryos because it’s not genetically normal? I don’t think anything is too far-fetched right now. It’s a little scary to think that really anything could happen at that point. It’s terrifying.”
Meanwhile, dozens of celebrities have taken to social media to share their own abortion stories to help support other women and make them feel less alone
Among them is singer Lily Allen, who says, “I wish people would stop posting examples of exceptional reasons for having abortions. Most people I know, myself included, just didn’t want to have a f—ing baby. AND THAT IS REASON ENOUGH! WE DON’T HAVE TO JUSTIFY IT. It shouldn’t have to be said, and I think all these examples just play into the hands of the baddies”.
Actor Ashley Judd revealed in 2019 that one of her three rapes had resulted in a pregnancy. She says, I’m very thankful I was able to access safe and legal abortion. Because the rapist, who is a Kentuckian, as am I, and I reside in Tennessee, has paternity rights in Kentucky and Tennessee. I would’ve had to co-parent with my rapist. Having safe access to abortion was personally important to me and, as I said earlier, democracy starts with our skin. We’re not supposed to regulate what we choose to do with our insides.”
Media personality and photographer Amanda de Cadenet has also spoken out. “I was 6 weeks pregnant and haemorrhaged so badly on a flight from LA to NYC I had to be taken off the plane in a wheelchair. I went straight to the hospital, where I was given an ultrasound and told I had an ‘incomplete miscarriage’. The only objective at that point was to stop me losing more blood.”
“The treatment for a miscarriage that your body won’t release is classified as an abortion if there is a heartbeat or a D&C if there isn’t. I’m so grateful the E.R team along with myself and then boyfriend (now my husband) could immediately make the choice that prioritised my safety without having to consider if the procedure was illegal, and if the Dr would be prosecuted for making sure I was safe.”
“That choice is now not an option in at least nine states, with trigger laws in others set to take effect in the coming days.” Click here to find out what Dr Serena H Chen, a leading US consultant, has to say about the latest Pennsylvania vote on Instagram. Dr Chen urges all those living in Pennsylvania “to contact your senator now to vote against #SB956 ”
Melissa Brisman, a New Jersey-based reproductive law attorney, told USA Today she worries “personhood laws could make it illegal to transport fertilized embryos across state lines or expose people to child-abuse accusations for mishandling embryos”.
Sad days ahead, but as ever, we’re here for you.
We will be following this closely, but do keep up to date with the latest on Roe v Wade and how you can help by visiting ASRM and RESOLVE, USA’s National Infertility Association.
We would love to know your thoughts on Roe v Wade by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment here or on our social Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @ivfbabble