Lets put the Personhood Act under the microscope

Interested to learn more? Check out my Personhood Update

 

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2 fertilized eggs 5 days after conception (blastocyst) as seen under a microscope.

Hold on to your hats folks and put your hot glue gun down because things are going to get a little serious.

For over a month I have been having a debate in my head whether or not to blog about this.  The Personhood Act – defining life as beginning at conception.

Back in February I read that the Oklahoma state Senate handily passed a bill that would say life begins at conception.  Parts of the bill read as follows:  “The life of every human being begins at conception” and “The laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every state of development all the right, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.”

One of the reason’s I’ve been debating whether or not to write about this is because I know a lot of my readers are conservative and pro-life, and might possibly agree with this bill.  My intent is not to question anybody’s stance on abortion or belittle the importance or status of an unborn child.  My purpose here is to encourage critical thinking and question what this bill means and what implications it could have on Oklahoma families.  Discussions can get very heated when hot button words like “abortion”, “pro-life”, and “pro-choice” are used.  Instead of getting defensive I hope that this encourages someone to take a look at this issue from a different point of view that they may not have been open to considering before.

That being said the idea of life beginning at conception has many layers.  I’m not going to try and peel back all of those layers in this one little post.  Rather I would like to take a look at just a couple of things that really concern me.

If I read this bill the way it is intended I am led to interpret it to say that a fertilized egg has all the same rights and should be treated the same as a living human being.  Laws that govern how we treat each other would also be applied to a blastocyst and embryo.  I’ve had some experience with fertilized eggs.  You may already know that my little Harry was created using in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  Before he was a fetus, even before he was an embryo, he was a microscopic clump of cells in a dish in a doctor’s office.  5 days after fertilization two little blastocysts were transferred to my uterus.  That picture at the top…those were my fertilized eggs.  I believe that those little groups of cells were not babies yet.  I think they had the potential to become babies but they were not yet babies.

Last week I read a letter to the editor in our local paper.  It was from an IVF mom who was also concerned about the Personhood Act.  I didn’t know her but was so moved by what she wrote I called her to tell her just that.  She did such a good job describing the IVF process and why the Personhood Act threatens future parents who have to use this method to get pregnant I want to share it here.

“By declaring a fertilized egg a person entitled to all “rights, privileges, and immunities” under state law, SB 1433 threatens the availability and effectiveness of infertility treatments and birth control in Oklahoma.

Because successful in-vitro fertilization (IVF) involves fertilization of multiple eggs, not all of which will survive, SB 1433 would curtail and possibly criminalize this life-giving procedure.

In nature, as in IVF, only 30% of fertilized eggs become babies; the rest either fail to implant or are spontaneously miscarried.  And while there is no denying cell division begins at conception, there is also no denying it cannot continue – a baby cannot develop and grow – unless and until pregnancy occurs.

Ask any person who has experienced infertility whether conception is the same thing as pregnancy and the answer will be a resounding “no”.

My own experience is illustrative.  The first time my husband and I underwent IVF, I produced 18 eggs, of which 16 fertilized in the lab but only three developed into blastocysts. (A blastocyst is the microscopic cluster of cells into which a fertilized egg develops five days after conception.)  My doctor transferred all three blastocysts to my uterus, but none implanted.  I wasn’t pregnant.  Sixteen conceptions achieved, zero persons created.

Our second round of IVF was much more successful.  I became pregnant with our daughter, and we were able to cryogenically preserve (freeze) several blastocysts for future use.  Two years later, I became pregnant via frozen blastocyst transfer and we welcomed a baby boy into our family.

Had SB 1433 been law at the time, our son would not be alive today.  If a fertilized egg is a person, it will be no more lawful to freeze a five-day-old blastocyst than it would to freeze my now 5-year-old son.  The lack of cryopreservation as an option will deny the gift of pregnancy and childbirth to hundreds of Oklahomans each year.

Not only would SB 1433 limit IVF options for couples who do want to become pregnant, it would also limit birth-control options for couples who don’t want to become pregnant.  Because family-planning methods such as IUDs and the morning-after pill might operate post-conception but pre-pregnancy, they would be outlawed under this bill.  The result?  More unintended pregnancies and, therefore, more abortions.

It all comes down to this: Who should make such vital and deeply personal decisions for Oklahomans: patients in consultation with licensed medical professionals, or politicians in consultation with agenda-driven lobbyists?”

-Susan Plath Winston

Susan’s story is very similar to mine.  Before Harry was Harry he was cryogenically frozen before being transferred to my uterus.  He would not have been possible without this technology.  Dear Husband and I can’t imagine life without him and anybody who has ever had the pleasure to meet Harry feels the same way.  He is a bright ray of light in our lives.

During an election year there is always talk about how big government is getting.  Talk of regulation, deregulation, personal freedoms, social services, and who’s going to pay for what clog the airwaves and define party lines.  I find it very interesting that the same people who want government to stay out of their lives and feel that it has gotten too big and intrusive in our private lives support this bill.  Having a politician tell me exactly when life begins seems pretty big to me.

Another thing that concerns me is the authority for which this bill was written.  With what authority did the author of this bill, Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa, site to make such a bold statement that life begins at conception?  The medical community does not agree with this statement, however a very conservative religious community does.  I wonder if he was led by his Christian beliefs?  Maybe he’s not but I know that a large portion of Personhood supporters are.  I can think of a number of bible verses that someone could use to argue the point.  For sake of argument let’s use Psalm 139: 13  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  When it comes to abortion and protecting unborn babies matters of the heart and one’s faith play a large roll.  And that’s important.  But when it comes to using Christianity and manipulating people’s beliefs to further a political agenda, then I have a problem with that.  Saying that a fertilized egg is a person and using bible passages as a point of reference or proof is disrespecting the passage as well as the belief system.  Using the bible as scientific evidence to prove that a embryo is it’s own individual is a misuse of the scripture, irresponsible and should not come into play.  Psalm 139 is a beautiful love song between God and his people.  Using it as anything other is missing the point of the Psalm all together. Of course we search the scriptures for divine guidance but when we put the text before it’s creator and demand that we can glean all of life’s mysteries, scientific as well as spiritual, then we have missed the boat.  Soon we start to worship the words instead of the divine.

Asking questions, thinking critically and examining how the scriptures square with scientific advancements in 2012 is a slippery slope.  Beware.  If you live on that slippery slope, like I do, I encourage you to write or email your state representatives.  If you want to you can use Resolve: The National Infertility Association website.  There you can find a letter that you can customize (if you want to) and send it right off to one or all of our representatives.

If you don’t want to, that’s your choice.  But I ask you to think about families who want a ray of light in their life but need help finding the light switch.

personhood act

31 Responses

  1. This is beautiful! I too hope we can look beyond the emotionally charged words and focus on the impact of such legislation!

  2. Hmmmmm…. lot to chew on here…

  3. Congratulations to you for having the courage to stand for and by your opinions and beliefs even when you know it may be unpopular. I agree with you! There is more to being pregnant and having a living person inside of you than two cells joining together. You referenced the that psalm from the bible and if I read it correctly God said “knit in your mother’s womb”. The womb is the uterus and for anyone who has done a bit of research, conception does NOT happen in the womb, it happens in the Fallopian tubes as it travels to the uterus. You are actually not even pregnant until that cluster of cells implants into the lining of your uterus. (but you know this). I think political men have gone too far and totally oversteps their roles with this one.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! And getting technical about the womb and the uterus and where/when pregnancy happens is even more validation that the Psalm is not about science or biology (IMHO).

  4. Good writing! I checked out and started reading you, because I loved the name of your blog and we both follow cookie momma. I am an author, wife of one, mother of two and especially Nana of three, almost four….
    This was one of the best articles I have ever read on this subject. Child Development is my background….but It has been since 1978 that I graduated….if I knew about the five day blastocyst, I had forgotten, and I do not want to ever stand in the way of IVF.
    Over the last thirty years I have moved further right, as a young woman I was not pro life.
    Recently our paper has been talking about doctors trying to figure out when( exactly which week) it physically hurts a baby to be aborted….
    There are lots of things to think about.

    I teach children to be safe, follow along if you are so inclined.

  5. Susan Winston

    You’ve done it to me again, Stephanie! I have tears in my eyes reading this . . . So many Oklahoma couples (and their parents and siblings and friends!) have lived through the heart-breaking, emotional roller-coaster that is infertility. My husband and I are so blessed to have had a daughter and son through IVF!!! And, strange as it is to say, our children were conceived on the same day (in a petri dish!) and born two years apart! This, thanks to “cryogenic preservation” (freezing) of blastocysts, a procedure the group Personhood USA (the Colorado organization behind SB-1433) thinks is immoral and wants to ban! I look at my beautiful five-year-old son, Henry, and think, “Who could call what your father and I did to create you immoral?!”

    I’ve spent a lot of time at the Capitol the past two weeks talking to legislators about the harms SB-1433 threatens to inflict on people struggling with infertility. I start each of these conversations with, “You can be pro-life and against the Personhood bill. In fact, I think the true pro-life position IS to be against the Personhood bill!!!” I then explain the three big problems I have with the bill: (1) if blastocysts are persons, it will be as illegal to freeze them as it would be to freeze you or me (and my son Henry wouldn’t be alive today); (2) any form of birth control — including basic birth-control pills! — that have the theoretical possibility of preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterine lining (even though they’re designed to suppress ovulation) could be considered capable of “killing” a “person” and thus be outlawed; and (3) there is nothing in SB-1433 — even as it was amended in committee today — to protect the life of a woman who has an ectopic pregnancy, toxemia (pre-eclampsia), ruptured uterus, cancer, staph infection or any other life-threatening condition. In such situations, the horrible, tragic reality is that the doctor has to remove the developing baby in order to save the woman’s life — a woman who is often a mother already with other children to care for (just like Rick & Karen Santorum experienced when they had to deliver their son Gabriel early so Karen wouldn’t die!). How, how can it be pro-life to let the woman and baby die together for fear of “killing” either “person”?!

    That said, it’s been so heartening to speak with our Republican legislators this week — all of whom have 100% pro-life voting records — who understand the complexities of this bill and truly believe it takes matters a step too far. It’s one thing to be against abortion, it’s another to give rights to fertilized eggs before pregnancy even begins! Especially if that prevents infertile couples from creating life! Still, many of our representatives are afraid to vote against the bill because of the intense pressure they’re under from lobbyists. Rep. Lisa Billy — SB-1433’s sponsor in the house — told me she merely wants the bill to be a “statement of purpose” that Oklahoma values life. Surely there are other ways the legislature can say the same thing without threatening such dire, unintended consequences?! What really scares me is that today, the Public Health committee rejected the proposed amendment of Rep. Cox (a Republican and an M.D.) that would have protected women with ectopic pregnancies!!! I’m seriously starting to think I live in crazyland!

    Stephanie — thanks again so much for your eloquent discussion of such a sensitive issue! All’s that’s left for us to do now is call our legislators and pray . . .

    ~Susan

    • Susan- Thank you so much for that. You are a perfect example that people on both sides of the fence can have a real, rational discussion about this important issue with out losing our heads. If our leaders would take time to listen to people like you rather than be bullied by special interest groups we might have a chance.

      Your letter to the editor was an inspiration and the final push I needed to write this post.

      Thank you SO much and please keep up the good work.

  6. Well done – you put it into a context for so many people who have no idea what infertile couples go through without getting too technical but still driving the point home that this amendment could hinder, not help families. Thank you for posting this!

  7. You are so right about “hot words” setting people off. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog here. I think you did a marvelous job defending what you believe in. Many people on both sides of this issue probably didn’t consider it from this perspective. I am a mother of one beautiful 4 year old boy. I became pregnant earlier in life than society liked but I graduated with my Bachelor’s on time and with honors. I met and married an amazing man and together we are a happy, successful family. Abortion was never an option for me because I always wanted to be a momma, even if the timing wasn’t perfect. My husband and I are currently trying to conceive and it’s been a slower process than I imagined. It’s too early to seek medical help or even consider IVF, but it is something I think about. I never considered that such powerful knowledge that helps women everywhere could be considered criminal. When people ask me what I believe, it’s pretty simple: except in extreme circumstances, have faith that things happen for a reason and that people are capable of thinking for themselves. Knowledge is a gift. All knowledge comes from God, even the knowledge that gives us science and technology. I know this is a pretty lengthy comment. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your post and thank you for a new perspective! Keep up the great work!

    • Thank you for sharing what you believe. It sounds like you have faith that God has a plan for you life and are willing to roll with the punches. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. You make my heart soar. What a beautiful statement from someone who knows the ramifications of this bill. Please never, ever give up on women’s rights.

  9. I want politics to stay out of my uterus! Also, what happened to the seperation of church and state….

  10. I would like to say that I’m actually in Illinois but I am keeping an eye on these Personhood Bills that states are trying to pass. Personally I’m against abortion but I would never want myself or anyone to get in the way of a couple trying to enjoy the blessing of having children. My mother was one of those people who was told about 20 some odd years ago that she couldn’t get pregnant. At that time I know science wasn’t where it is today. I do know that 24 years ago my mother never thought she would be witnessing her only daughter graduate from college and help the starts of planning a wedding. I am now almost 23 years old and I am happy that my mother was eventually able to enjoy this blessing. My boyfriend and I are not ready for marriage yet (we both want to finish graduate school first) but my mother is still looking forward to the day when we do eventually get married. Everyday my mother and I are lucky that she managed to get pregnant and I would never want someone to go through the pain of being told that they can’t have children and not have other options of where they can. I have heard about the pain my parents went through to have me and had witnessed the pain they went through to try to give me a sibling and not being able to. Children are a blessing from God and these scientific methods are helping Him spread that blessing. I hate to see a road block being put up to prevent this.

  11. Thanks so much for speaking out against bills that would prevent families like yours (and mine) from coming into existence. Personhood laws are fundamentally anti-family in ways which go far beyond the pro-choice/pro-life divide.

    I’d like to point out that Rep. Billy amended her bill to explicitly state that “the authority to regulate IVF procedures is reserved by the Legislature”. Those “regulations” she’s talking about can effectively prohibit IVF without saying so in so many words — in fact, we’ve already seen bills which would do just that come up across the country.

    When you give the government the power to determine how your doctor can provide you with medical care, that’s not a “statement of principle”. That’s a real threat to infertile couples who just want to have families. That’s a key reason why personhood bills including SB-1433 are opposed by EVERY Oklahoma infertility specialist, the Oklahoma State Medical Association, RESOLVE, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    If you think personhood is just about abortion, ask yourself why the doctors and nurses who actually treat patients, and who understand the medical issues, strongly oppose personhood.

  12. One more thing: if you want to oppose personhood, please, it’s VITAL that you call or email your representative and Speaker Steele to ask that SB-1433 not be voted on by the House;

    Calling is really easy and it takes less than five minutes. If you’re not sure what to say or who to call, we have a post on our website that explains how to do that: http://parentsagainstpersonhood.com/2012/03/23/how-to-call-oklahoma-legislators/

    No matter where you fall on choice/life issues, please stand with us against this assault on infertility treatment, contraception, and life-saving pregnancy care.

    • Thank you so much for this information. Just because the bill was amended this week does not mean that IVF is in the clear. It’s is not specific about cryopreservation which is often an integral part of IVF.

  13. […] weeks ago I wrote about the Personhood bill making its way through Oklahoma and how I felt about it.  I mentally prepared myself for negative […]

  14. Wow. This is a tough subject to blog about, and I commend you for doing it. I had never thought about how this type of legislature would affect IVF babies. While I’m not in OK, I would absolutely be contacting my representatives with my concerns if I were. One voice can make a big difference. Good luck!

  15. Thank you for inviting us to think critically about this issue. Thinking critically means to look at an issue from as many perspectives as possible, without bias, then to bring yourself to the most correct position. I noticed that in your articles, you brought in the position against the bill from a contributor, but, I did not see any information from someone who is in favor of the bill. I hate to upset your clean record of non-dissent, but if no one else is willing or able to present an alternate position, I am willing to try. I have just come across your blog, and am not a regular reader. I don’t know your audience, so, I don’t know why there were no alternate opinions, but with such a controversial subject, there should be. Here’s my attempt to present an alternate view:

    You wrote: “With what authority did the author of this bill, Senator Brian Crain of Tulsa, site to make such a bold statement that life begins at conception?”

    From the contributor: “And while there is no denying cell division begins at conception, there is also no denying it cannot continue – a baby cannot develop and grow – unless and until pregnancy occurs.”

    The contributor inferred that conception or fertilization is separate from pregnancy, that pregnancy begins with implantation. You are correct that not all medical professionals agree with life beginning with conception. Although there are some schools of thought that have morphed to this position, that pregnancy begins with implantation, it is not the main stream (or democratic) thinking in the global or national medical community:

    “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).” [Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

    “The question came up of what is an embryo, when does an embryo exist, when does it occur. I think, as you know, that in development, life is a continuum…. But I think one of the useful definitions that has come out, especially from Germany, has been the stage at which these two nuclei [from sperm and egg] come together and the membranes between the two break down.”
    [Jonathan Van Blerkom of University of Colorado, expert witness on human embryology before the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel — Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 63]

    “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
    [O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]

    “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
    [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

    Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…. Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”

    We can all agree that human life is a process, with unique phases, infancy, childhood, adolescence, etc. At the moment of fertilization, the process has begun. Soon after, within the first 48 hours, a protein is released in the blood, telling the body that there has been a significant change. EPF, early pregnancy factor, is secreted to inform the reproductive system that it has changed, and the usual menstrual cycle has ended. Tests are available that can identify the EPF within days of pregnancy, but they are cost prohibitive. Currently, the test for pregnancy is hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin. This is the protein secreted at the time of implantation.

    From the contributor: “Because family-planning methods such as IUDs and the morning-after pill might operate post-conception but pre-pregnancy, they would be outlawed under this bill.”

    These methods create an environment that will not allow the new life to implant and find the new form of nourishment that is required of the blastocyst. Previously, the zygote carried it’s nutrition within itself. Now, things have changed, and dependent nourishment begins. The process continues. Artificial irritation by means of abortive agents terminate the new life. Although these methods can be distributed as easily as contraception, they are in truth abortive. In dissecting the word, we see that these methods can not be considered contraceptives – against conception. Conception/fertilization has already occurred.

    You wrote: “Saying that a fertilized egg is a person and using bible passages as a point of reference or proof is disrespecting the passage as well as the belief system. Using the bible as scientific evidence to prove that a embryo is it’s own individual is a misuse of the scripture, irresponsible and should not come into play.” I read SB 1433. I did not see references to scripture in the bill. Can you explain your statement objectively?

    Was the politician formed by his belief system? Yes, as were you, or your contributor, or anyone else for that matter. Are you asking your politicians to not have belief systems, or not to represent the beliefs of their constituents? Is that possible?

    I hope I have been respectful, but strong in my attempt to present to your audience an objective argument from the position of the defense of life at all stages.

    We are at a new threshold of history. We, the people of the new millennium, are major players in this history. This discussion is important, but it must be complete. We must be open to look for the truth in the midst of the darkness of this new horizon. We must not look at the issues, the beginning of life, abortive agents in these dark, intimate moments of the womb, IVF and cryogenic preservation, with sentimentality and desire alone.

    Natural law will create it’s own order. Manipulation of it has unknown consequences. Are we prepared to accept the consequences? Have we considered them?

    • Susan Winston

      Dear Ann,

      I’m Susan, the “contributor” to whom you repeatedly refer in your response.

      To begin, I want defend Stephanie, whom you chide for having included my views against personhood without also having presented the perspective of a personhood supporter. Stephanie’s article is an eloquent foray into a complicated and controversial topic in which her family has a particular stake. She chose to publish her post in this, her personal blog. Stephanie is not a reporter duty-bound to be “fair and balanced.” She is under no obligation to give equal time to the pro-personhood agenda in expressing her well-founded concerns about SB-1433.

      That pro-personhood bloggers likewise have no obligation to present arguments opposed to their beliefs is readily apparent from any of the hundreds of their posts available on the subject. In fact, many personhood supporters automatically assume those of us who don’t agree with them are godless advocates for unfettered abortion rights, and make other such knee-jerk, accusatory assumptions that are not only unfair and imbalanced but also untrue.

      Regarding the start of pregnancy you wrote: “Although there are some schools of thought that have morphed to this position, that pregnancy begins with implantation, it is not the main stream (or democratic) thinking in the global or national medical community.” First, since when do we arrive at scientific facts through the democratic process? Second, your quotes about life’s beginnings are hardly sufficient to establish “main stream . . . thinking in the global or national medical community” especially since you lifted them straight from the webpage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — http://old.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml — not a source to which most people turn in seeking medical knowledge.

      All of which begs the question, what is your belief system, Ann, and how does it color your opinions on personhood?

      If, as you state, “[t]hinking critically means look[ing] at an issue from as many perspectives as possible,” and Stephanie and I, as IVF moms, hold a point of view you readily dismiss as influenced by “sentimentality and desire alone,” I think it’s only fair that you, the anonymous responder who seeks an equal hearing in this forum, divulge the underpinnings of the perspective you promote.

      Awaiting that disclosure, let’s look at what the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say about when a woman becomes pregnant:

      “To be sure, not every act of intercourse results in a pregnancy. First, ovulation (i.e., the monthly release of a woman’s egg) must occur. Then, the egg must be fertilized. Fertilization describes the process by which a single sperm gradually penetrates the layers of an egg to form a new cell (“zygote”). This usually occurs in the fallopian tubes and can take up to 24 hours. There is only a short window during which an egg can be fertilized. If fertilization does not occur during that time, the egg dissolves and then hormonal changes trigger menstruation; however, if fertilization does occur, the zygote divides and differentiates into a “preembryo” while being carried down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Implantation of the preembryo in the uterine lining begins about five days after fertilization. Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. A pregnancy is considered to be established only after implantation is complete.”

      http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/08/2/gr080207.html#box1

      Let’s also consider the list of medical organizations opposed to personhood:

      American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
      American Society for Reproductive Medicine
      Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology
      RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
      Oklahoma State Medical Association
      Oklahoma ACOG
      Colorado Medical Society
      Denver Medical Society
      Colorado Academy of Family Physicians
      Colorado Society of Osteopathic Medicine
      American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology – Colorado Chapter
      American College of Emergency Physicians, Colorado Chapter
      American College of Nurse Midwives, Colorado Chapter
      Mississippi Nurses Association
      Mississippi ACOG

      And compare it to the list of medical organizations that support personhood:

      Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

      (I’ve attempted the above search several ways, and am not going to swear this group is the only medical organization that supports personhood. It is the only one I was able to find after an hour on the Internet, however. Not surprisingly, it’s also the only listed organization with a religious affiliation. Please feel free to add the names of other pro-personhood medical organizations as warranted).

      You may believe a fertilized egg is a person in all respects. You may believe most birth control methods are anathema to society. You may believe IVF and embryo cryopreservation are immoral acts that kill microscopic people. No one is threatening to pass legislation that will prevent you from living your life according to those beliefs.

      But to pass a statute granting fertilized eggs the same rights, privileges and immunities under law as belong to the post-born is to force the rest of society to live life your way. This, despite the fact that such legislation will end up regulating assisted reproductive treatments out of existence, outlawing most non-barrier methods of birth control, and jeopardizing the lives of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions.

      Think about it. If a pre-viable fetus is a person with the exact same legal rights as the woman in whose womb it resides, what would happen in cases of toxemia (pre-eclampsia), ectopic pregnancies, cancer, ruptured uteruses, pulmonary hypertension, or a host of other life-threatening conditions in which therapeutic abortion is the only way to save the mother’s life? As it stands, many Catholic hospitals will not perform this life-saving procedure on pregnant women who are about to die. For the time being, at least, women in such dire circumstances have the option to transfer to non-Catholic hospitals in an effort to save their own lives. Once SB-1433 becomes law, physicians’ hands will be tied no matter the hospital. Any doctor who performs an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman (a woman who may be a mother already with several children waiting for her at home) will be committing murder.

      Denying couples life-creating IVF treatments, increasing the number of unwanted pregnancies by banning common methods of birth control, forcing doctors to sit on their hands while nature takes its course in pregnancies turned deadly . . . to my mind, none of these outcomes is pro-life. But they are all the inevitable result of placing fertilized eggs on the same legal footing as pregnant women.

      You ask if we expect our politicians “to not have belief systems, or not to represent the beliefs of their constituents.” Speaking for myself, I am not asking politicians to do any of those things. What I am asking them to do is refrain from passing legislation that codifies beliefs that are in conflict with the reasoned opinion of the American medical community.

      Perhaps you don’t realize that SB-1433 is not a constituent bill. Sen. Crain, the bill’s sponsor, has admitted in the press he is carrying the bill on behalf of an outside lobbyist. Rather than listen to his constituents, it seems Sen. Crain, with an opponent running against him in this year’s Republican primary, will do whatever it takes to ensure his campaign is well-funded by big-money lobbyists and agenda-driven groups.

      As I’ve said before, there’s no denying cell division begins with fertilization. But I defy you to tell me the two miscarriages I suffered during my six-year struggle to get and stay pregnant – heart-breaking though they were – were the functional, legal, or emotional equivalent of the death of a post-birth child. One does not typically name, bury, or file death certificates for babies lost to first-trimester miscarriage. (In fact, in Oklahoma, the only time it is legal to file a fetal death certificate is in cases of stillbirth; even then, such certificates are sanctioned by separate legal authority and treated as distinct from death certificates for persons born alive).

      Your insistence that fertilization and pregnancy are one in the same, with implantation being just a minor detail in the process, would have lead to some absurd results in my case. According to your beliefs, even though I wasn’t even in the room when it happened, I became pregnant with sixteen children the moment my husband’s sperm fertilized my eggs in a petri dish at the fertility lab. According to your beliefs, thirteen of my children died while they were pre-embryos. According to your beliefs, I was remained pregnant with triplets before my doctor ever transferred the three remaining blastocysts to my uterus on Day 5, never mind the fact that none of them implanted, as revealed by the pregnancy test I took ten days later.

      The second time I underwent IVF (the first attempt having resulted in no born persons despite sixteen initial conceptions), my physician transferred three blastocysts to my uterus (only one of which implanted) and my husband and I decided to cryogenically preserve the remaining three for future use. According to your beliefs, by placing live persons in a freezer, my husband and I should have been criminally charged with child endangerment and attempted manslaughter. According to your beliefs, because freezing embryos is immoral, we should have transferred all six fresh blastocysts to my uterus at the same time, rather than transferring three and freezing three, this despite the risk of my becoming pregnant with sextuplets. (The “Octomom” doctor lost his medical license, btw).

      The undeniable fact is that had your belief system been law six years ago, my son would not be alive today because it would’ve been illegal for us to freeze his embryo. But I suppose I’m letting “sentimentality and desire” cloud my critical thinking again.

      Here’s a question for you: How do your reconcile your belief that a fertilized egg is the legal equivalent of a post-birth person with the irrefutable, biological fact that “at minimum, two-thirds of all human eggs fertilized during normal conception either fail to implant at the end of the first week or later spontaneously abort.” http://discovermagazine.com/2004/may/cover/article_view?b_start:int=2&-C= Especially since women are often completely unaware any such thing has happened.

      And what do you think about other belief-driven medical restrictions that exist in other countries, such as prohibitions on autopsies and organ donation, which are viewed as impermissible violations of corpses that must be kept complete for successful passage into the afterlife? Or chow about the gruesome practice of female “circumcision,” which was promoted in this country throughout the 19th and into the 20th century based on the belief it would cure masturbation, lesbianism, epilepsy and hysteria. What if a majority of Americans wanted to codify those sorts of beliefs today?

      As a final matter, you conclude with “Natural law will create it’s own order. Manipulation of it has unknown consequences. Are we prepared to accept the consequences? Have we considered them?” That sounds pretty ominous. Can you explain those questions objectively? In so doing, please describe the consequences to which you so obliquely refer, in order that we may consider them “without bias . . . to bring [ourselves] to the most correct position” on the issue of personhood.

      Thank you.

      Susan

    • Ann – Thanks for bringing another point of view. A debate isn’t really a debate if we don’t have arguments from both sides.

      Regarding your question about using the bible as scientific evidence and if the politician was informed by his belief system…You’re right in saying that SB1433 does not have any language referring to biblical passages or citing faith as evidence. I was reaching beyond the bill and trying to make a point that the bible has no place in the case of the state telling us how we decide scientific matters. I was speculating as to the idea that the author of this bill allowed his religious believes shape the bill. I do think that legislatures should have belief systems, I think we all should. And those belief systems should help serve as our moral compass. However, using those beliefs to govern is a slippery slope. I have no problem with how one person believes over another or using your beliefs to shape and form who you are and the decisions you make day in and day out. I do it myself everyday and teach my children to use their elementary understanding of God and faith to make good choices. However, I do have a problem when religion or a belief system is used to keep a group of people under it’s thumb. When religion is used as a justification for “might makes right” or limiting freedom then we have a problem.

      Thank you for your opinions.

      Respectfully,
      Stephanie

  16. […] Check out the original Personhood post here. […]

  17. Excellent piece. Glad you choice to post on this.

  18. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do believe that you need to write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually folks
    don’t speak about such topics. To the next! All the best!!

  19. […] Let’s put the Personhood Act under the microscope […]

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