One of the frequently asked questions about Personhood is how it will impact In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). We received one such question via email a while back from a concerned husband & father. It began :
I have a few questions about your initiative because it could possibly have a direct effect on certain aspects of my life. You see, my wife and I have been trying to have children for over two years now. This past spring we had some fertility testing performed, and the results of those tests indicate that, because of tubal problems, the only way for us to have children of our own is through in vitro fertilization(IVF). In case you’re not familiar with IVF, it’s a rather expensive process (usually about $10,000-$20,000) that is rarely covered by health insurance policies; in this process, the woman self-administers a prescribed regimen of hormones, and as an ideal result, she will develop 8-12 follicles (which hopefully translates into 8-12 eggs) in one cycle, as opposed to one or, occasionally, two eggs. These 8-12 eggs are retrieved from her ovaries after they have sufficiently matured, and they are fertilized in a laboratory with the man’s semen and allowed to mature for a few days. After these few days, the doctor determines which two fertilized embryos are maturing the most, and these two best embryos are then transferred back to the woman’s uterus in hopes of successful implantation—positive pregnancy—and delivery.
My concern is in regards to the embryos that were not transferred; the fertilized embryos can be frozen for a significant period of time, and the purpose of this is so that when my wife and I decide that we want another child, we can use the embryos we already have (which is much less expensive) instead of going through the whole process again. The freezing of our embryos serves as sort of check-point for us, so if the first two fail to implant into her uterus, for whatever reason, we don’t have to completely start over—we can try transferring the embryos we already have, and if we decide we don’t need any more children, we can donate them to another couple that requires donor eggs to conceive. I think the probability for implantation is somewhere around 60% (at least, for our age group), so we have a much better than average chance of having twins than the average couple, but this also means that both of the embryos have a 40% chance of failing to implant. Obviously, the ability to freeze embryos can be a huge asset to any couple that requires the aid of IVF to conceive children.
Then asked the hard questions:
The point toward which I’ve been working is this: Does your initiative address fertility treatments? Is there anything about your proposed amendment that would work against the efforts and expenses that my wife and I have waged toward starting a family of our own? Will your initiative make our life more difficult? I am not a lawyer, but if your initiative doesn’t have a clause or exemptions regarding fertility treatments, it probably needs such, and if it purposefully and thoughtfully lacks such exemptions, I have a feeling that you likely won’t be able to accumulate whatever majority you need to pass this initiative—about 1 in10 couples have some sort of fertility problem
Here was our initial response:
Thank you for your thoughtful email.
A number of families in our church & circle of aquaintences that we
love dearly also struggle with infertility, so I know how difficult &
painful this can be.
I have not heard the 1 in 10 number you used, but have no doubt that
this is accurate (I would have actually guessed a little higher.)
Since your letter was very personal, thoughtful, and detailed i do not
want to give you a less than personal, compassionate, adequate,
I will write a more thorough reply if you’d like, but the short answer is the Personhoid Amendment does not directly address
IVF & the particular difficulties you mentioned – positively or
negatively. This was intentional, but not for the reasons you alluded
An amendment of this nature is by necessity not overly broad and does
not even attempt to deal with every possible scenario. The legislature
and the courts will still have to wrestle with the application of the
law to specific circumstances.
stem cell research
some forms of birth controll
(and many more areas)
all may be touched by this law, but none are directly addressed.
The Personhood Amendment would prevent the intentional taking of a
life, but it would not adress miscarriage or a situation like yours
any more than our current laws against murder mean someone is charged
when a person dies of a disease in a hospital or laws against child
abuse would be used against parents of a child who inherited a genetic
We are merely giving lawmakers framework in which to operate and make
these type of decisions. This is no different than any enumerated
right in a bill of rights or constitution or definition in a contract
The Personhood Amendment sets the parameters – lawmakers, judges,
members of the excutive branch are still charged with the duty of
dealing with the myriad of possible applications.
Our amendment simply gives a definition to a term that has henceforth
been ambigous (at great human cost).
Hope this helps. I will try to get a more specific answer soon.
Afterwords, (or now) you can feel free to call me for clarification.
My family & I will pray for you & your wife tonight.