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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.