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Should an Embryo Be Protected by the Constitution?


a blog by David Kreiner, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., East Coast Fertility, February 16, 2011

The United States of America is the most amazing nation in the world. It was the birthplace for modern political freedoms and democracy. We have been on the forefront of individual rights and have the Constitution and Bill of Rights to protect us. So, it should not be too surprising when groups of Americans who believe that life begins long before birth and immediately after conception attempt to impose these same rights on embryos.

An Iowa House Subcommittee has advanced a bill, HF 153, which would give constitutional rights to embryos. The bill is being presented to the Human Resources Committee, and then very likely to the full GOP-controlled House, where it stands a good chance of being approved.

Those of us who work with in vitro fertilization (IVF) have enormous respect for the special status of the human embryo. Like the acorn for the oak tree, a human embryo has the potential to become a human life some day. But, let us be clear. I am not speaking of a fetus that resembles an immature developing baby — I am referring to a group of cells, in some cases undifferentiated, prior to the initiation of organ development.

This bill not only threatens the reproductive rights of women, it prevents those who suffer from infertility to seek treatment for their disease. It would take away the rights of an infertile patient to make decisions about embryos created as part of IVF. Excess embryos that otherwise are developed to improve a patient’s chances of having a baby would either not be allowed or would accumulate in a clinic without limit. Embryos with abnormal chromosomes could not be discarded and would be forced to be transferred, giving potential to an abnormal fetus.

Embryos are created for the sole purpose of creating a much-desired human being for those otherwise unable to build a family without the help of assisted reproduction. However, it is a basic American right backed by the courts that the responsibility for determining what happens to an embryo belongs to the progenitors of the embryos. Since most fertilized eggs fail to implant in the uterus, it is unreasonable to assume that an embryo will develop into a person — and, therefore, it is inappropriate to offer it the same constitutional rights as a live human being.

Passage of this bill would result in a ruling that all embryos be transferred back into a woman’s uterus, which would result in many tragic, unhealthy multiple pregnancies, or that they be kept frozen forever.

This would truly be un-American.

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