Arizona: Outlawing IVF?

Help me out, because I do not believe I am fully understanding this: If Gov. Brewer signs the new legislation, then IVF clinics which create and destroy zygotes are all person-killing, are they not?   I seem to remember multiple presentations when last I took coursework in bioethics — which was too long ago for my memory to be great — by researchers explaining that in vitro fertilization could, and sometimes did, involve the creation of multiple zygotes.  When one implants successfully in a client, the others may be kept for a while, then destroyed, unless the client directs them otherwise.

But perhaps my memory is in error, because I would think this would come up in the news coverage of the bill.  As far as I can tell, it hasn’t.  The discussions I’ve seen of the coverage tend to be about how doctors, and now legislators, count the length of a pregnancy.  But I haven’t seen any news outlet say, “Whoa, I guess some IVF clinics can no longer operate in Arizona.”  What am I missing, and am I wrong that IVF clinics have been known to do this? Advice, please, hive-mind.

10 thoughts on “Arizona: Outlawing IVF?

  1. Does this change define a preembryo as a person, or outlaw destroying preembryos? I couldn’t find any reference to this in the bill. If not, then I can’t see why the law would result in the outlawing of IVF clinics that destroy zygotes.

  2. Good questions, Anonymous. Right, the bill doesn’t refer to a person. But the bill regulates the abortion of an “unborn child” defined as the offspring of human beings from conception, and defines abortion as life-terminating surgical or drug procedures of that conception. So I was puzzling out the requirements of zygote-destruction.

  3. Maybe the “surgical or drug procedures” language creates a loophole for tossing unwanted zygotes/embryos into the trash. Maybe people in general don’t grasp this well, though, because I do not see much discussion at all of the fact that unwanted embryos are routinely destroyed after IVF. I would have thought that would come up in the stem cell debate, too.

    Is this an unintended consequence of poor science literacy?

  4. I don’t know about the Arizona bill, but I remember the issues of IVF clinics coming up when Mississippi considered a “personhood” amendment sometime in the past year.

    What puzzled me was that all the focus was on whether the bill would allow discarding the embryos–or whether that would be prohibited as “killing a person” under the bill. But I kept thinking: if an embryo is a person, isn’t storing it a freezer for a few years (or even days!) akin to torture and an obvious violating of human rights? I mean, it would clearly violate my rights if someone put me in a freezer with the intention to carefully keep me alive so I could be defrosted later at a more convinent time (for them). If a zygote has all of the moral status and rights that I have, surely storing embryos for IVF is itself a massive violation of humans rights too!

  5. I think it’s a consequence of particular world-view holding which is not always consistent. I find that occasionally, pro-life legislators consider fertility clinics a whole different thing, because life-creation is a good.

  6. From what I could tell from a quick scan through the bill, it specifically says abortion as they define it does not include procedures meant to create pregnancy like IVF, nor is it inclusive of ordinary oral contraceptive use– it also looks like this is specific to abortion clinics, so fertility clinics wouldn’t fall under it I think. But I was reading very quickly.

  7. Kathryn (my read was also hasty, so taking this for what it’s worth), it looks like it specifically says the definition excludes anything that saves the life of an ‘unborn child,’ but it’s individualized to procedures that either advance an identifiable zygote’s life, or procedures that kill/end it.

  8. Wouldn’t the answer be that destroying stored zygotes, even though it results in their death, doesn’t “terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman” (a key part of the statute’s definition of “abortion”)? The statute’s definition of “pregnancy”, even though it begins at conception, requires “having a developing unborn child in the body”.

  9. You’re right, Nemo. I think the source of my puzzlement was simply that the offered rationale for doing so was the state’s interest in lives of unborn children. Also, if a sperm vertilizes an egg in vitro, that’s a conception, isn’t it?

    Hm, but the more I think about Nemo’s point, the more I find myself imagining that this is how the legislators pointedly get around regulating IVF. This strikes me as inconsistent with their stated interests, but perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place for consistency (meaning Arizona, not you, Nemo).

  10. I think “looking in the wrong place for consistency” nails it, profbigk. But thanks for the discussion.

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