Wednesday, July 17

Why “fetal personality” is disturbing the right

As IVF gained popularity, so did the concerns of its opponents. Standard practice involves creating multiple embryos, which are tested for genetic abnormalities, and those that appear healthiest can be transferred. Leftover embryos are usually frozen; by one count, there are one and a half million frozen embryos in the United States. After a designated period of time, they can be donated to science or destroyed, just as the Catholic Church feared.

The anti-abortion movement won a partial victory by protecting life at the moment of conception in 2001, when President George W. Bush banned the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, but President Barack Obama reversed that policy eight years later.

Beginning in the late 2000s, voters rejected ballot initiatives to enshrine fetal personhood in at least five states. It seemed likely that voters in deep red Mississippi pass a personality measure in 2011. But in the weeks before the election, doctors and pro-abortion groups warned of the threat to IVF and birth control, and the initiative failed, 58 percent to 42 percent.

However, in criminal law fetal personality remained entrenched. In 1986, Minnesota passed a law treating the death of a fetus as homicide in some circumstances. More than 30 states now “give full recognition to unborn victims of violence” in the words of the National Right to Life Committee, applying fetal homicide laws at any point of development in the womb. Some states have similarly expanded child abuse laws to cover the fetus. Hundreds of women have been indicted based on these statutes, often to using drugs during pregnancy or, in some cases, after a miscarriage.

Politically speaking, it is much easier to crack down on these women, who may struggle with poverty or addiction, than to attack the couples, often middle class and wealthy, who resort to IVF (the procedure costs between 12,000 and $30,000). IVF includes former Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who opposes abortion. Pence and his wife, Karen, used IVF, he revealed in 2022. Fertility treatments “deserve the protection of the law,” he said. saying so. “They gave us great comfort in those long, challenging years when we struggled with infertility in our marriage.”