Tough question for Alabama lawmakers to deal with this session. Perhaps tougher than many of you will realize.
Here it is: when do you become a person? At birth or is it the minute the sperm fertilizes the egg?
Now throw in this complication. What if the fertilized egg isn’t in the womb. Is the human embryo a person even then or only after implantation in the womb?
Rep. John Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa) and Sen. Phil Williams (R-Gadsden) have introduced legislation to legally define l personhood “from the moment of fertilization.” Read HB409 here
Williams bill awaits a full vote in the Senate. Merrill’s version will come up for a vote in the House Health Committee.
“Personhood” legislation has popped up in several states. The closest to passage at this time is Mississippi, where the court’s are considering a ballot measure that would allow voters to decide if it should be put in the state constitution.
The idea: outlaw abortion by declaring fertilization constitutes personhood, thus setting up a potential U.S. Supreme Court battle. Personhood USA is a national anti-abortion movement that has seen limited success in other states and now has included Alabama in it’s focus. Read more here.
“The purpose of the legislation is to protect the rights of the unborn,” Rep. Merrill says, “we’re dealing with peoples’ lives when talking about the abortion issue.”
“I have the highest regard for life, maybe more so than anybody else because I understand the value,” says Jessica Sasser, “that’s what I’m fighting for is a baby. But at the same time, especially with the wording of this bill, there are scientific things you need to look at.”
Sasser testified against the current wording of the bill two weeks ago. Like one in seven U.S. couples, the 26 year old and her husband need fertility specialist to try to get pregnant. After two years with no success, in vitro fertilization appears to be their last, best hope.
Her doctors, and fertility organizations like the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, contend it could raise serious legal questions for fertility clinics if “personhood” is adopted in it’s current language.
ASMR’s Dr. Robert Rebar writes:
Even with natural conception, most fertilized eggs never develop into human beings. This is also true when the conception is accomplished using ART techniques. Because many of the fertilized eggs will not continue their development, physicians generally create several embryos for each patient. This is necessary so that the embryologist can choose the most developmentally competent embryo(s) for transfer and thereby increase patients’ chances of achieving a pregnancy and having a baby. Almost all ART cycles result in extra embryos. If their extra embryos have developed well, patients usually choose to freeze them for later transfer- to try for a pregnancy again if the current attempt was unsuccessful or to have another child. Read the full letter here.
Merrill says roadblocks for fertility patients is not the bill’s intent. As for the medical criticism of the bill in it’s current language, Merrill considers that “speculative” and in some cases, an “obstacle” by opponents.
Sasser and others who appeared before the House Health Committee hope Merrill will amend the bill to declare “personhood” once the fertilized egg is “implanted in the womb.”
Merrill’s bill will be considered by the House Health Committee Wednesday at 9a.m.
Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.
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