Here at the CBC, we’re often asked what’s going to happen to the laws around assisted reproductive technologies considering the Dobbs ruling.
My standard reply is that while I don’t have a crystal ball, I can imagine it will look different in conservative red states who will move to limit and restrict abortion in their states versus liberal blue states which will move to safeguard and protect women’s rights to access abortion services. Pay close attention as the political landscape around early human life throws a wrench in state legislative plans: Not only will states now debate abortion, but they will also struggle to draft legislation whether or not the hundreds of thousands of embryos created in labs across the U.S. will also have legal protections or rights. As it is now, the human embryo, that is left as surplus in the lab, or has been part of debate in matters of custody when couples who created the embryos divorce or one of them dies, is often seen as property that is owned.
Federal legislators have this on their radar and are organizing. I recently became aware of The Bipartisan Family Building Caucus organized and introduced by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida and Representative Billy Long, a Republican from Missouri.
The Bipartisan Family Building Caucus has five legislative priorities to achieve their stated purpose “to strengthen policies affecting American families and to educate, advocate, and bring awareness to Americans who are struggling to build their family.”
- Their first priority would be to increase medical insurance coverage to include infertility diagnosis and treatment and access to reproductive technologies.
- The second legislative priority is to provide military families seeking assistance to adopt or have greater access to infertility and family building services.
- Next is their legislative priority to encourage the Office of Personnel Management, which is the human resource agency for the federal government, to increase options for federal fertility benefits.
- The fourth priority is to strengthen family leave policies in the United States.
- And finally, the last legislative priority is to support the education of healthcare professionals around disease related to infertility risk and options.
Whenever I hear “family building,” I understand right away that the discussion is about access to assisted reproductive technologies. The language has shifted from pro-creation to reproduction in light of emerging reproductive technologies. Pro-creation brings to mind babies created the old fashion way, while reproduction one thinks of as manufacturing or making, or ‘building’ a family. The former is done naturally, the latter requires assistance, and that assistance can mean taking fertility drugs or artificial insemination, or it can mean buying eggs and sperm, renting wombs, and even more add-ons like sex selection, pre-implantation genetic testing, and even more rouge techniques like gene-editing or CRISPR technologies.
I’m even cynical (as a Navy mom), when a special interest group, such as the military, is exploited to play the sympathy card. I’m not sure if it was intentional not to use gay men as the special interest group, but many Americans will feel a sense of duty to help our men and women in the service “build a family.”
I noted that this Bipartisan Family Building Caucus has four advocacy groups supporting this initiative. The Military Building Coalition, the Alliance for Fertility Preservation, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and finally RESOLVE, the national infertility association which is the lobbying arm of ASRM. Each of these groups is pushing an agenda of “family building” via reproductive technology.
It’s going to be a busy year for us at the CBC as we attempt to educate and support organizations at the state level who share our concerns. Your support helps us meet these needs.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.
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- Assisted Reproductive Technology2023.05.16My Remarks At Harvard Regarding Third-Party Conception