Personhood Initiatives Spreading

February 4, 2013Carole 1 Comment »

The College of Reproductive Biology is a professional society associated with the American Association of Bioanalysts whose members include embryologists, andrologists and other ART professionals. Last week, members received this update about new Personhood Initiatives.

Letter copied below:

“Personhood Bill Introduced in  House of Representatives 

Legislation that would give full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization has once again been introduced in Congress. The Sanctity of Human Life Act (H.R.-23), introduced on January 3, 2013 by Rep. Paul C. Broun, (R-TX), would define the beginning of human life as “fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” The bill currently has more than 20 co-sponsors to the bill, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The bill has been sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary for further action.  

The College of Reproductive Biology wants the membership to be aware of this bill, and would like to encourage fervent opposition to it. Personhood initiatives are one of the most dangerous threats aimed at public access to fertility and perinatal care, and would stand to severely hinder our ability to treat infertility with most assisted reproductive technologies.   

Rep. Broun introduced an identical bill in January 2011; it attracted 65 co-sponsors, but was not brought to a floor vote. There have also been several attempts in recent years to enact an at-fertilization definition of personhood into U.S. state constitutions. Below are examples of proposed changes to existing legislation in various states, which, if passed, would have granted full legal protection and rights as persons to fertilized eggs and embryos.

  • Colorado, Ballot initiative (2008): “[T]the terms “person” or “persons” shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.”
  • Georgia, SB 169 (2009): “A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity.”
  • Georgia, HB 388 (2009): “.[T]he term ‘child’ shall include a human embryo.”
  • South Carolina, S. 450 (2009): “The right to life for each born and preborn human being vests at fertilization.”
  • Arizona, SB 1307 (2010): “A person shall not intentionally or knowingly engage in . nontherapeutic research that . results in the injury, death or destruction of an in vitro human embryo.”
  • Mississippi, Ballot initiative (2011): “As used in this Article III of the state constitution, The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
  • Virginia, HB1 and Oklahoma, SB 1433 (2012): “[T]he term ‘unborn children’. shall include . the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.”
  • Oklahoma, HJR 1067 (2012): “[T]he term ‘persons’ . applies to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.. Only in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction that kills a person shall be affected by this section.”

Even if H.R. 23 is not passed by Congress, it could encourage additional state-led initiatives. 

We encourage members, and especially those in states whose representatives have co-sponsored this bill or are members of the Judiciary Committee, to utilize their right to speak out against H.R. 23. Please contact your representative’s office, or Click here to  voice your opposition. Click here to access the full text of H.R. 23 and a list of co-sponsoring representatives here. Click here to access a list of members of the Judiciary Committee.”

Why should we care? While embryologists treat embryos with utmost respect, we understand that embryos, while having the potential to develop into persons. are not persons. The majority of embryos, created in a lab or in nature, do not survive and do not produce living children. This distinction is critically important and redefining an embryo as a person is not only a fallacy, but will have real medical consequences.

  • The right to have a legal, safe abortion as determined by the Roe vs. Wade ruling would be null and void.
  • Doomed pregnancies such as ectopics will be illegal to treat, causing death to the mother in some cases.
  • The liability of creating embryos and storing embryos will be too great. IVF will disappear as a treatment for fertility , erasing 30 years of advances in reproductive medicine.
  • Stem cell research using embryos will also become impossible to perform, if not outright illegal.

If any of these consequences are unacceptable to you, please let your representative know that you do not support these measures, particularly if you live in Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina,  Arizona, Mississippi, Virginia and Oklahoma, where Personhood Initiatives are pending.

© 2013, Carole. All rights reserved.

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