This comment is from Lee Rubin Collins in response to those who commented on the post Think We Should Keep IVF Legal?
Okay — I’ll bite.
What I expected in comments:
“OMG, are there really people trying to enact laws that would make it harder or impossible for couples to do IVF in this country? That is shocking. Thank you for alerting me. How can we men help turn back this misguided movement?”
Plainly, that was not the response I got. I’m in a mood that’s both circumspect and sporting, so let’s look at some of the comments.
The line that received the most comment was an aside: “You’ve seen it and we’ve seen it: when an issue is only about women, it can get written off.” It certainly wasn’t central to my argument, but I admit, as a recruiting tool to men it was pretty backhanded. I could have written an appeal that was much more welcoming, and should have. It was a generality that it is often inaccurate even if often accurate, too.
A question arose whether it is fair to label the people who are pushing vehemently for embryonic legal personhood rights as “religious extremists.” It’s probably a pejorative label, but I do believe this movement emanates from a religious fringe, and not mainstream religion. Personhood is not synonymous with “pro-life” and that’s an important distinction to make (I did not make it as well as I should have). In fact, many mainstream pro-life groups disagree with and do not support the personhood movement. Episcopal and Methodist Churches, the National Right to Life Committee, and Americans United For Life are among those that have withheld support for the personhood movement.
Another reason the proponents can be called extreme was pointed out by Anthony Z: the fundamental premise of the personhood movement is the exact one that you said “most people” do not believe: that a fertilized egg is a baby or a person. Indeed, many personhood bills read like this: “The term “person” shall include an egg from the moment of fertilization.” I think you are right that most people do not believe that — but if a personhood law passes, all of us will have to live our reproductive lives according to that belief, held, as you say, by a small minority of people and, it seems plain, as a matter of religious tenet.
The question of whether all personhood advocates “intend” to outlaw IVF is an interesting one. I think you’re probably right that it wasn’t the main intention; the main intention was to stop abortion. But if fertilized eggs are full persons with legal and Constitutional rights, then it seems likely, for example, that you can’t freeze them. Freezing embryos, however, is critical to the practice of IVF at the standard of care in this country. As another example, if fertilized eggs are persons, then the loss of embryos has the legal and moral equivalent of the death of a full adult human; if negligence can be claimed, then a lawsuit or criminal charges can be brought. Will doctors and embryologists want to practice medicine with that threat over their heads? We don’t think so. So, yes, it is possible that harm to IVF is collateral damage in the personhood war. But in the end, if my medical treatment is impeded or taken away, it doesn’t really matter if it was intentional or collateral.
It was one of the last comments in Anthony Z’s note that I am still pondering. You posted this quotation from the National Organization for Women:
“NOW fully supports access to safe and legal abortion, to effective birth control and emergency contraception, to reproductive health services and education for all women. We oppose attempts to restrict these rights through legislation, regulation or Constitutional amendment.”
“Do you recognize the same kind of two-tone thinking (yes/no, right/wrong, black/white, true/false) that you criticize in your adversary?”
I really don’t. If I understand correctly, you see the statement from NOW as equal to the efforts to ban abortion and IVF via embryonic personhood. Perhaps you ought to explain this more fully, because I really do not perceive them to be the same kind of thinking. The difference I see is that the NOW statement is about preserving access to certain reproductive treatments, including abortion. It isn’t mandating that anyone has to have an abortion or in any way live their lives in a manner inconsistent with their own beliefs.
But under personhood laws, those who believe IVF is immoral don’t have access, but neither do those who believe it is moral.
photo: lifeofpei / flickr