The Los Angeles Times (a one time free registration may be required) finally notices that couples who initiate in vitro fertilization are “finding themselves ensnared in a debate about when life begins.”
The proposed Colorado amendment states, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include any human from the time of fertilization.” If it is passed, the courts would have to interpret the meaning of those words, says Kristi Burton, sponsor of the initiative and founder of Colorado for Equal Rights, which focuses on the rights of unborn children. The goal of the amendment, says Burton, a college student, “is to respect and protect all life.”
Fertility advocates are skeptical that “personhood laws” wouldn’t limit their choices for reproductive healthcare. In August, Resolve released a statement opposing the Colorado amendment.
“The motivation is abortion,” says R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “If the Supreme Court allows states to declare embryos as personhood, you would be in a position to say immediately that all abortions have to stop.”
The reproductive rights of infertile women may not be the target, says Dr. William Schlaff, director of reproductive endocrinology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, “but the implications are massive depending on how this law would be used if adopted.”
For instance, what happens to embryos determined to be afflicted with serious genetic diseases? “What do you do with that embryo then?” Schlaff asks.
Says Burton of the initiative’s possible ramifications: “All those things would have to be dealt with later on. . . . We don’t see it as preventing infertility treatment.”
As for the Rathans, over the course of several weeks, the couple ruled out discarding the embryos. They discussed donating them to research but heard that option was a logistical nightmare. They pondered giving the embryos to another infertile couple.
“Before I became pregnant, I thought the decision would be easier for me,” Gina Rathan says. “But when it actually happened, I realized these are three potential lives.”
Finally, the couple paid for three more years of cryopreservation.