In wake of “Octomom,” States Consider More IVF Regulation

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

In an effort to prevent the emergence of another “Octomom,”  a Georgia state senator has introduced legislation to limit the number of embryos that can be implanted in a woman’s uterus during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures.

According to a report by CNN, Georgia Sen. Ralph Hudgens introduced the “Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act,” which states that “a living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity.”

The bill, which limits the number of embryos a doctor can implant to two for women under 40 and three for women over 40, is said to be the most sweeping legislation introduced to date in the wake of the case of Nadya Suleman, a 33-year-old single mother of six who gave birth in January to eight babies through in-vitro fertilization.

“She is not married,” said Hudgens. “She is unemployed, she is on government assistance and now she is going to put those 14 children on the back of the taxpayers in the state of California.”

Ms. Suleman has said that she had six frozen embryos left from prior in-vitro treatments and asked that they all be implanted because she didn’t want them to be destroyed. Two of the embryos split, creating eight total embryos, she said.

The Suleman case sparked a wave of criticism of the multi-billion dollar U.S. fertility clinic industry which is entirely self-regulated. The U.S. is one of only a handful of developed nations without laws regulating specific treatement protocols in fertility clinics such as the number of embryo transfers or screening embryos for sex selection.

Most other nations put a limit on how many embryos can be created and implanted in a clinc in order to eliminate the useless waste of embryonic life as well as the problem of having to store frozen embryos. Currently, U.S. fertility clinics and other storage facilities are housing nearly a half million frozen embryos.
The restrictions that would be imposed by Hudgens’ bill are only slightly less than existing recommendations of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine which suggests implanting no more than two embryos for women under 35 years of age and no more than five for women over 40. The reason for allowing more embryos in women over 40 is that it is more difficult for them to get pregnant.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of U.S. fertility clinics don’t follow these embryo implant guidelines. 

“To us it’s a human-rights issue,” said Daniel Becker, Georgia Right to Life’s president about the Hudgens bill. Embryos deserve legal protection “as living human beings and not as property,” he said.

The Vatican has been a long-time advocate of the rights of the embryo and considers the use of procedures such as IVF to be immoral.

Clinic owners, who stand to lose millions if these laws are enacted, are speaking out against the Georgia bill.  

“What this bill will effectively do is shut us down,” said Dr. Daniel Shapiro, a fertility doctor in Atlanta. “Patients seeking reproductive care in Georgia will go to Tennessee or South Carolina or Alabama. They will just leave.”

Even if they do, they may eventually find similar laws in other states. In addition to Louisiana which already has laws on the books that protect the rights of human embryos, the state of Missouri is also considering a bill similar to the one being proposed in Georgia.  Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in other states in the near future.

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