Why You Should Be Worried About Georgia

BlogHer Original Post

Figure out this math equation: "hands-off government" senator, Ralph Hudgens + Right to Life group = Bill 169, the piece of Georgia legislation that is being discussed in a committee hearing this morning. Bill 169, which seeks to impose limits on reproductive rights without regard to the actual people affected by these laws. All for the sake of stopping another set of octuplets from entering the world--since, as you know, higher order multiples is just as much a problem taxing the state of Georgia medical system as obesity and Gonorrhea.

Actually, sorry, the state is the 12th most problematic state in regards to obesity and it rocks out as the 5th most Gonorrhea infested state according to Georgia health statistics. Yet it is 21st in line--almost the midway point--of the 50 states in regards to twin births (no information was available about the rate of triplets and higher). Why not enact legislation restricting the caloric intake of citizens or making it a law that a barrier must be used during all sexual acts? Anything to lessen two greater health risks in the state of Georgia?

Because apparently Ralph Hudgens believes that the threat of octuplets is taxing the state's medical system more than state's higher-than-average rate of heart disease. Or it's higher-than-average rate of diabetes.

It is certainly more important to pass legislation concerning the number of embryos transferred during IVF than it is to pass legislation protecting children from firearm-related deaths. Georgia is a state without legislation on an assault weapons ban or trigger locks required to be sold or safe storage requirements.

But octuplets born via IVF will be the downfall of the great state of Georgia.

According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, Bill 169 aims to

limit the number of embryos transferred during an IVF cycle, and ban the fertilization of any eggs in excess of the number allowed to be transferred. Even if more eggs are produced, they could not be fertilized and cryopreserved for future attempts at pregnancy. In patients under 40, physicians would be allowed to fertilize and transfer only two embryos, and in women over age 40, no more than three embryos. These limits do not meet ASRM guidelines on the number of embryos to transfer, and would affect patients access to care in Georgia. SB 169 would also eliminate any compensation for donor gametes, such as donor egg and donor sperm, severely limiting the number of available donors.

What does this mean in simple terms? And it should be noted that no legislation is being passed to make IVF affordable to the average person who needs to utilize it--Georgia residents do not have mandated health care coverage for infertility. Therefore, citizens will be paying out of pocket (the average IVF cycle costs a little under $10,000) for each cycle.

  • That only two or three eggs will be allowed to be fertilized regardless of how many eggs are collected during retrieval. Regardless of the patient's history or the natural attrition rate with fertilization.
  • That every embryo created must be transferred. There will be no cryopreservation of embryos.
  • Only two embryos can ever be transferred at one time to a woman under 40. Regardless of quality (for those who don't know, embryos are graded in terms of quality). A maximum of three embryos can be transferred in a woman over 40. Of course, you may not have any embryos to transfer if you only fertilized two eggs due to the attrition rate.
  • A complete ban on financial compensation for those who undergo risky procedures in order to donate their gametes thereby ensuring that the available donor gamete pool is greatly reduced.
  • It prohibits stem-cell research from leftover embryos.

Why is this legislation grabbing the attention of all Americans--even those outside of Georgia? Even those not struggling with infertility? Even those not currently trying to conceive?

Because it is what is called back-door politics--the creation of what the majority deem a reasonable bill (after all, what state wants to cover the tab Californians face in regards to the health of the octuplets?) in order to pave the way for additional legislation, in this case, to affect the ruling of Roe vs. Wade. By entering through the back-door, legislation can open up the front door by laying important foundations to helping overturn abortion law. It is no accident that this bill was drafted with help from the Right to Life movement.

It isn't that there aren't sound ideas buried in this bill. Trying to find ways to cut back on the number of embryos cryopreserved is important. Setting up guidelines that can be examined on a case-by-case basis is important. If the bill was only discussing the number of embryos that could be transferred, I don't believe most people would be up in arms. But the bill is restricting the number of eggs that can be fertilized which means that many people who attempt IVF are going to end up with nothing to transfer. Creating laws that restrict doctors from practicing sound medicine, from following their Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm and to act in the best interest of their patients is dangerous. Medicine is more art than science, with each body reacting differently to medications and procedures. One law cannot be in the best interest of every person's health, especially a law that disregards the myriad of ways infertility is caused from uterine anomalies to CBAVD.

This law is giving rights to embryos--not women and men. In fact, it is taking away the rights of women and men to give it to embryos. As the bill states: "A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity." Meaning: you don't get to choose what happens to your gametes once they mix. The state gets to choose.

Baby Twiglet recently wrote a post about this legislation, explaining the attrition rate of IVF: "I had 9 eggs. We attempted to fertilize all of them but only 5 did. Of the five only 2 were really good. A third was ok and 2 fizzled out completely. Just because you get eggs does not mean they will fertilize and just because they fertilize does not mean they will thrive."

Conceive This! exclaims in regards to the law and Nadya Suleman: "Please tell me that no one would possibly impose such a knee-jerk reaction based on the current 'news' entertainment of the day."

Blogger, from The Baby Makin Chronicles to Body Diaries are posting calls to action against the bill that is being discussed this morning in the Georgia senate.

What can you do? As the AFA states:

The Georgia Senate Health & Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on SB 169 Thursday, March 5, at 9:00 AM in Room 450 of the State Capitol. The committee will hear testimony in the hearing which is open to the public. You're encouraged to attend and voice opposition to the bill.

If you can't make the meeting, you're asked to please contact the Office of Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and express your opposition and concern.

You may also contact your Senator directly by finding him or her at the following web address.

You can blog about it, spread word about it, and make sure your voice is heard loud and clear that what is happening in Georgia is not in the best interest of the citizens of Georgia, nor will it be in the best interest of other states if this bill sets a tone that others follow. That equation is bad math and this bill is bad lawmaking.

No offense to Georgians with Gonorrhea.

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of 1700 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in June 2009. She is the keeper of the IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week) list which is currently open for March.

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