Personhood still alive in Oklahoma
Posted by: Renee Whitley at April 17, 2012
Category: Federal and State legislation
Today we are going to talk about legislative events in Oklahoma.
I know. I saw your eyes glaze over. Not this again. Not personhood, AGAIN. You may be thinking, this really doesn’t affect me and it sort of makes me uncomfortable to talk about. And besides, I don’t even live in Oklahoma.
But please give me a chance here. Go get your coffee or Diet Coke and give me five minutes to convince you why this issue and this legislation impacts all of us, women and men, from Connecticut to California and everywhere in between.
Oklahoma is very close to becoming the first state in our country to pass a “personhood” law. Under SB 1433, the laws of the state would now be interpreted to recognize a fertilized egg to have the same rights as any living person in the state.
I have been through IVF and completely understand the importance of each of those microscopic embryos. We rode the roller coaster of emotions through every stage of the post-retrieval process. Would the eggs fertilize? Would any eggs that had fertilized survive the first day of dividing? Would any of those microscopic embryos make it through five days to the blastocyst stage so they could be transferred or cryopreserved?
The reality is that not all eggs will fertilize and not all fertilized eggs will make it to a stage where they can be transferred or frozen. And I know from experience, as do many other women that NOT EVERY EMBRYO WILL IMPLANT AND BECOME A CHILD.
An embryologist I know well once said about the human reproductive process, “biology is messy.” In human reproduction, it is estimated that 70% of fertilized eggs either fail to implant or implant and are miscarried before a woman would ever know she is pregnant.
Here is where basic math intersects with personhood legislation in this equation.
Let’s say a couple is undergoing their second attempt at IVF. The first attempt ended with a miscarriage at six weeks and they had no remaining embryos. Their reproductive endocrinologist has diagnosed the woman with stage two endometriosis.
On this cycle she has ten eggs retrieved. Out of those ten eggs, six are fertilized. By day three, two of the six fertilized eggs (or embryos) have stopped dividing and the embryologist has a choice to make: let the remaining embryos keep dividing to the later blastocyst stage or transfer at day three. He consults with the reproductive endocrinologist and the couple, and they decide their best course of treatment is to try for the blastocyst stage at day five or six. Between day three and day five, one more embryo stops dividing. On day five, the couple comes into their doctor’s office for the embryo transfer procedure.
Not wanting to risk possible complications from a multiple birth, the couple has a single embryo transfer (SET) and the remaining two embryos are cryopreserved for a later pregnancy attempt.
Unfortunately and heartbreakingly, the woman has a negative pregnancy test two weeks later.
Now for the quiz:
Under Oklahoma’s personhood legislation (SB1433) which of the medical procedures described below would be illegal:
a. Freezing of embryos
b. Not transferring the embryos at day three
c. Transferring one embryo instead of three embryos
d. Transferring an embryo into a woman with a uterine abnormality
e. all of the above
The answer is….E – All of the above!
Basically, infertility physicians would not be able to treat their patients to the current medical standards. They would be forced back to 1970s-era medicine before embryo cryopreservation was the standard of care in IVF and high order multiple births were common.
There has been quite a bit of research about a couple’s disposition options for embryos that may remain after they have completed their families. One of the things that has always resonated with me is the difficulty people have defining how they view their embryos. Are they tissue, per the FDA regulations? Or human beings? Many struggle with the question. But these are personal decisions that should be made privately. I can say with all certainty that I have never once asked my state representative or my state senator one single question about my health care decisions.
The IVF process does include procedures that could be deemed harmful to an embryo. If harming an embryo is the same as harming a person or if an embryo were to stop growing in the lab process or not survive the thaw after cryopreservation, then the physician, embryologist, and any lab assistants would be held liable.
I don’t think very many doctors would want to keep practicing medicine in this field.
So that is how a medical field that encompasses more than thirty years of medical success plus four million babies born worldwide times one in every eight couples plus 1% of every U.S. birth times one Nobel Prize for Medicine somehow equates to zero for the illustrious Oklahoma lawmakers who are desperately trying to make a political point by passing SB 1433 at the expense of Oklahoma families and physicians.
Please help. Let’s make some noise and let the Oklahoma legislature know that infertility patients cannot be ignored.
Actions you can take:
- If you are a resident of Oklahoma, please send a letter to state lawmakers, asking them to vote no on SB 1433. It only takes a few minutes to send your letter from RESOLVE’s website.
- Share this blog post.
- Call your legislator and ask him or her to vote no on SB 1433. Click here to find your Oklahoma Representative(Oklahoma House) and their website for the phone number.
- Call the Speaker of the House, Representative Steele at 405.557.7345 and the Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Hickman at 405.557.7339. For all your calls, please make sure you tell them:
• Your name and where you live (city name)
• That you are calling because you oppose SB 1433 and that you care about people with infertility and this bill, regardless of what amendments are added, will not protect infertility medical treatment.
- If you have a blog, blog about this issue.
Renee Whitley is the co-chair of RESOLVE’s Advocacy Committee. She has volunteered for many years in her home state of Georgia and serves as an invaluable resource for volunteers, professionals, legislators and their staff across the country on issues related to infertility legislation, policy, and a host of issues related to reproductive health. She was instrumental in the fight against Georgia Senate Bill 169 in 2009, a bill that would have severely impacted access to infertility treatment in Georgia. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.