First of all, I have to hand it to politicians for coming up with the common name of some of the bills they put through Congress – names which instantly strike an emotional chord and make you feel guilty if you were against it. The Personhood Bill, aka the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009, aka H.R. 227 and H.R. 212, is a great example of one such bill. Introduced into the House in 2009 by 61 representatives – 59 of which were men, 1 of whom is Paul Ryan, current GOP VP candidate – and later died, only to be taken up by individual state congresses. The goal of the bill, and its subsequent spawns, are to declare as law “that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.” Meaning that the minute a woman’s egg is fertilized that little zygote is a human, a person, a US citizen with all the rights and protections of any other citizen in the country. Meaning that any means to destroy that cell – the Plan B bill, early-term abortions, or discarding of embryos (relative to practices in IVF) – is tantamount to murder and punishable by law.
Sidenote – You can see why Representative Todd Akin might be a little hesitant to back down from his position that abortion shouldn’t be legal even in cases of rape since he co-sponsored this bill.
While this bill doesn’t have a chance of becoming national law – at least not yet, it has been brought up in several states. The implications for infertilites are pretty stark, especially for those for whom IVF is their only option for achieving pregnancy. (This might mean you, fellow unicornuate or Mullerian anomaly sisters). During IVF, several embryos are typically created for selection for the IVF process. Depending on the doctor and the circumstances, the doctor might choose to transfer several embryos into a woman at a time with the odds that one of them will stick. Some doctors, depending on the situation, would only transfer one embryo though several might have been created. The remaining embryos are then frozen for another cycle or research, or they are discarded. With Personhood legislation, each one of those embryos would be considered a person even at that early stage, with full rights and protections, meaning to discard of them would constitute murder. This means that states with this legislation would see the number of IVF specialists dramatically decreasing as they move to neighboring states without such restrictions. IVF practices under Personhood would also decrease that clinic’s success rate, especially if they choose to create and then transfer only one embryo at a time – creating an expensive cycle of trial-and-error for patients as they would see greater numbers of visits and transfer attempts.
As I mentioned, several states have brought Personhood bills forward for public voting or referendums, including Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Colorado, Mississippi, and Arizona – all of which had their own takes on what “personhood” entails. To my knowledge, none of them have passed – but it’s been close, especially in Oklahoma.
My advice to you: Next time you vote – tomorrow! – make sure you know what kind of laws might be up for public voting in your district, and just what you’re voting for or against!
PS: Mitt Romney was the only GOP candidate during the debates earlier this year to not sign the “Personhood Pledge” to support Personhood. As governor of Massachusetts in 2002 he firmly attested to a woman’s right to choose; as a presidential candidate ten years later he hypothetically supports pro-life legislation, though we don’t know if that’s his true stand or if he’s just trying to woo moderates / independents any way he can.