Why the legal recognition of the personhood of prenatal children will not prohibit IVF treatments.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics claim that IVF treatments cannot be conducted without the intentional killing of prenatal children, but both history and science prove that this claim is incorrect. From the standpoint of history, IVF clinics in Italy proved that they could continue to operate under regulations very similar to the legal personhood of prenatal children. In the realm of science, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently sanctioned an IVF procedure that would eliminate a large number of the prenatal deaths that often accompany IVF treatments. Both the example of the Italians and the findings of the ASRM demonstrate that IVF can be conducted in a way that complies with the legal recognition of the personhood of prenatal children.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics claim that IVF treatments cannot be conducted without the intentional killing of prenatal children.
- Both history and science prove that this claim is incorrect.
- IVF clinics in Italy conducted about 40,000 treatments per year under legal restrictions similar to the recognition of prenatal personhood.
- The American Society of Reproductive Medicine recently sanctioned an IVF procedure that would eliminate a large number of prenatal deaths.
- There is a simple, 7 step process that would allow IVF clinics to continue to operate under the legal recognition of the personhood of prenatal children.
As Alabama’s legislators seek to provide full legal protection of the constitutionally guaranteed right to life of prenatal children, they are frequently confronted with opposition from fertility clinics. These clinics claim that they cannot perform in vitro fertilization (IVF) services if the legal personhood of prenatal children is fully recognized. However, there is a method by which IVF treatments can be conducted without violating the legal personhood of prenatal children.
In standard IVF practice, a woman’s eggs are harvested and immediately fertilized. Upon successful fertilization, the embryonic children are observed for 3 to 5 days before the best of them are selected for either immediate transfer into the womb or freezing for a transfer at a future date. Those children who do not meet the clinic’s standard for acceptable embryos are discarded, and if the IVF procedure is successful, the children who were frozen in the embryonic stage are often discarded as well. It is this practice of discarding (and thereby killing) undesirable and unwanted embryonic children that would become illegal once the personhood of prenatal children is recognized by law.
The fertility clinics claim that, while they regret the loss of embryonic life, they are incapable of performing IVF treatments in a manner that would avoid such losses. This statement is false. There are methods of IVF treatment available to Alabama’s fertility clinics that do not include killing undesirable and unwanted embryonic children.
Standard IVF procedures may involve killing embryonic children at 2 different points in the procedure. The first of these times occurs at the end of the 3 to 5 day observation period following successful fertilization. At this time, those children which are determined to be undesirable are usually killed and discarded. This unnecessary destruction of human life could be avoided by a policy which requires the clinician to treat every embryonic child as equally desirable. This policy was implemented in Italian fertility clinics over a 5 year period from 2004 to 2009 as a result of a law forbidding the intentional destruction of embryonic children. During this time, Italy still conducted about 40,000 IVF treatments per year[i],[ii] thus proving that IVF can be conducted in a manner which does not include killing undesirable children.
The second point at which children are sometimes killed in the standard IVF process occurs at the end of the treatment when the couple seeking children decides that they have no need of any further treatments. At this point, the children who are already alive but in a frozen embryonic state are often killed and discarded. This step in the IVF process could be avoided by freezing the woman’s unfertilized eggs instead of freezing living embryonic children. Freezing unfertilized eggs was discouraged by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) until 2012 when the ASRM declared that this procedure “should no longer be considered experimental” and recommended this method particularly for those who “wish not to cryopreserve embryos.”[iii] With the ability to freeze a woman’s unfertilized eggs instead of freezing living embryonic children, there remains no possible justification for freezing and then discarding unwanted children.
These facts point to the conclusion that IVF can be conducted in a manner compliant with the full legal personhood of prenatal children. For example, an IVF treatment plan which takes these findings into consideration might proceed along these 7 steps:
1) Harvesting of eggs
2) Fertilization of a single egg
3) Freezing of extra eggs
4) Observation of single embryonic child for 5 days
5) Transfer of single embryonic child into womb[iv]
6) Observation of mother to determine pregnancy status
7) Thawing and fertilization of a single egg to repeat steps 4 – 6 if necessary
An IVF treatment plan based on these steps would not violate the legal rights of a prenatal child, and other plans may be equally viable. Recognition of the legal personhood of prenatal children is not a hindrance to IVF. This recognition may require certain changes to be implemented to safeguard the lives of the children formed through the IVF process, but this is no different from the safeguards that are required for any industry which has the potential to endanger human lives. By establishing treatment standards similar to the seven steps listed above, IVF clinics in our state can continue to operate within the scope of legal recognition of the personhood of prenatal children.
– For more information on the effect of personhood legislation on IVF procedures, check out the article “Personhood and RESOLVE” by The Personhood Initiative.
[i] Table I, “Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2005″ Hum. Reprod. (2009) 24 (6): 1267-1287. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dep035. First published online: February 18, 2009
[ii] Table I, “Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2009” Hum. Reprod. (2013) 28 (9): 2318-2331. doi: 10.1093/humrep/det278. First published online: July 9, 2013
[iii] “Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline” Fertility and Sterility. (2013) 99 (1): 37–43. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.09.028. First published online: October 22, 2012
[iv] Studies have shown that transferring a single embryo eliminates the risk of multiples without reducing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. “Using One Embryo in IVF Doesn’t Lower Birth Rate” Fox News Health. October 24, 2011. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/10/24/using-one-embryo-in-ivf-doesnt-lower-birth-rate.html