No matter where one stands on abortion, attempts at introducing Personhood legislation or ballot initiatives to change state constitutions to include Personhood amendments must be alarming to infertility care providers because of the threat they pose to IVF and certain contraceptive practices. In the past 5 years, an extreme anti-abortion movement from Colorado, PersonhoodUSA, has been aggressively promoting legislation nationwide to give fertilized human eggs, embryos, and fetuses the same rights as born individuals. Intended to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade on a state level, such attempts are a classical example of overzealousness with a plethora of unintended consequences.
If passed, Personhood threatens anyone handling embryos in the IVF laboratory. If embryos are considered “persons”, any damage to them may result in legal penalties. The specter of well-meaning embryologists and their supervisors going to jail for carrying out their medical duties is why Personhood legislation is so disquieting. In addition, any contraceptive methods such as the morning-after pill and intrauterine device that prevent implantation may be banned because they prevent implantation of a “person”. So far, Personhood legislation has failed in every state where it was introduced. Ballot initiatives to create state constitutional amendments that adopt Personhood have failed as well. PersonhoodUSA, nevertheless, assisted by sympathetic conservative legislators, is determined to push the issue to its legislative and legal extremes.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is strongly opposed to measures granting constitutional rights and “Personhood” status to fertilized reproductive tissues and has issued a statement to that effect on its Web site and to various state legislatures. ASRM and SART members are actively involved in efforts to defeat Personhood nationwide. SART and ASRM members as well as infertility patients and their families are encouraged to contact Eli Reshef MD (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about such efforts, especially if Personhood legislation is introduced in their own state.