January 30, 2015

ICC works to curb expansion of sale of human eggs, embryos

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to expand the sale of human eggs and embryos across state lines moved forward as lawmakers considered the bill’s merits during a Jan. 14 meeting of the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee.

The measure, Senate Bill 208, would legalize the transfer of a human organism, including human eggs or human embryos, from Indiana to other states, which current law prohibits.

Using in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a morally grave sin, according to Catholic teaching. Yet some ask why the Church opposes this process when the end result, or goal in many cases, is to bring life to an infertile, married couple. The answer involves several morally grave issues.

Outlined in a document by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) titled “Begotten Not Made: A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology,” IVF separates the marital act from conception. Secondly, it creates a moral and ethical dilemma of creating more fertilized eggs than will be used placing these preborn humans in a sort of frozen, and possibly indefinite limbo, or worse to be sold, or used for experimentation. According to the USCCB document, more than 90 percent of embryos created perish during the IVF process.

For decades, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) has opposed IVF and issues like it, including surrogacy and embryonic stem-cell research, because they all involve endangering or killing a preborn child. It also opens the floodgates to commercialization of preborn human beings, and pushes the envelope of “creating” the perfect child through genetic selection via egg donor profiles. It also puts the child or children potentially at risk for what has been euphemistically described as “selective reduction” when the number, characteristics or sex of a child is deemed undesirable.

The purpose of Senate Bill 208 is to allow Indiana fertility clinics to participate in multi-state egg banks, according to Philip Sicuso, attorney and partner at Indianapolis law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, who testified in support of the bill representing Dr. Bradford Bopp of the Midwest Fertility Clinic.

Sicuso told the panel the benefits of passing the legislation included increasing the selection options for couples looking for specific genetic characteristics. Another benefit, he added, would be the sharing of technology between clinics across the country. With a larger pool from which to draw, Sicuso also estimates costs would decrease and the number of donor eggs would decrease.

Current law allows Indiana fertility clinics to collect and store unfertilized eggs for the purpose of fertility treatment. Fertility clinics cannot offer use of their eggs to a fertility clinic in another state, nor can they receive eggs from another clinic in another state.

Bopp told the panel that as technology improves it will reduce the ethical and moral dilemma of creating more embryos. He asserted that if passed, the legislation would reduce the need to create extra fertilized eggs and reduce the moral dilemma faced by couples of what to do with their unused fertilized embryos.

Glenn Tebbe, who serves as executive director of the ICC, testified in opposition to the bill.

“While I appreciate the stated purpose to reduce the number of embryos that this bill helps to achieve, the Indiana Catholic Conference, however, does not support Senate Bill 208 because the Catholic Church considers in vitro fertilization immoral and cannot support any attempt to promote or expand its use.”

He added, “Rather, we would hope this bill would be changed in order that this industry be regulated to limit its harm. We are grateful that this bill maintains current law of a prohibition on embryonic stem-cell use and the use of embryos for other purposes. Yet, this legislation provides no limit on the amount a fertility clinic can charge for transferring ovum from one place to another, and has the effect of further sanctioning the commercialization of the human gametes.”

Noting other countries’ lead in regulating reproductive technologies, Tebbe said, “We believe this industry needs further regulation, including limiting the number of embryos that can be created at one time.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lists the average cost of an IVF cycle in the United States to be $12,400 per attempt. Midwest Fertility Clinic advertises financing packages upward of $40,000 on their web page to potential clients. ASRM reports the sale price for eggs paid to the egg “donor” for the purchase of eggs by a fertility clinic ranges between $3,500- $10,000 per cycle.

Senate Bill 208 awaits a vote as the panel considers further analysis.

As the ICC tracks bills, it posts legislative updates on its Web page. To receive legislative updates via e-mail, join the Indiana Catholic Action Network (ICAN). These and other public policy resources are available at www.indianacc.org.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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