February 16, 2018

Bill to expand IVF across state lines advances in House

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to expand the source of eggs for in vitro fertilization (IVF) cleared the House by a vote of 88-8 on Jan. 23, and moved to the Senate. The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), the state’s public policy arm for the Church in Indiana, opposes the bill and expanding the IVF industry.

House Bill 1203 would allow the sale and purchase of human eggs across state lines, thus expanding the source of eggs used in the IVF process.

According to the Mayo Clinic, in vitro fertilization is defined as a complex series of procedures used to treat fertility or genetic problems, and assist with the conception of a child. During IVF, mature eggs are collected from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. The human embryos created in the lab, which are not implanted in the woman seeking pregnancy, are either frozen for possible future use or discarded.

Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director who serves as the public policy spokesperson for the bishops in Indiana, testified in opposition to the bill.

“While the bill does not specifically discuss the in vitro process, its purpose is to further the IVF process and birth of a child,” he said.

“The Catholic Church considers in vitro fertilization immoral and cannot support any attempt to promote or expand its use,” Tebbe added. “The process of IVF promotes the commodification of human beings. The Catholic Church opposes the commodification, manufacture or sale of human beings and, consequently, any legal measure that expands or eases the abilities of private or public entities to engage in such socially damaging activities. This bill greatly increases the practice and sources for commodifying human beings.”

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, author of the bill, asserted the legislation is needed to correct an unintended consequence of a 2012 law passed by the Indiana General Assembly regulating egg sale. Eberhart said the bill specifically addresses the inability of fertility clinics from accessing frozen eggs outside of the state for use by Indiana recipients. The bill would allow residents to purchase, import and export human unfertilized eggs.

Eberhart said Indiana egg banks are limited and lack diversity. He added the current practice, which limits interstate commerce for human eggs from females but permits interstate commerce for sperm, is an example of “gender discrimination.” While couples could travel out of state to get the eggs from another state, Eberhart said it causes unnecessary hardships.

Dr. Bradford Bopp, a physician at Midwest Fertility Clinic in Indianapolis, testified in support of the measure, saying one in five couples experience infertility. Half of those are a result of the woman’s infertility; the other half represents the man’s infertility. He said if a male has an infertility problem, he can call a sperm bank in California and easily get sperm shipped to him, but if the female has a problem with her eggs it is a felony for her to contact an egg bank out of state to acquire an egg. Bopp said he has Indian and Asian couples who cannot find a match from the Indiana egg bank.

Elliott Bedford, director of Ethics Integration for St. Vincent/Ascension Indiana and an adjunct professor at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Marian University in Indianapolis, asked if the bill is about “health or economics.”

“If this were truly about health, infertility, choice and the best interests of patients, it would be focused on treating its root causes: the reproductive health of men and women,” he said.

Bedford added the best way to improve people’s choices is to improve their reproductive health by better access to medical techniques like Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) surgeries, medications, behavior and lifestyle changes. “This bill does nothing in that regard,” he said.

“It will, however, increase commerce for IVF providers at the expense of reinforcing the objectification and commodification of women, especially those who are socio-economically vulnerable,” said Bedford. “Healthy couples don’t need to leave the state to achieve pregnancy if they can do it themselves. It’s a straw man argument to say that the infertility problem in Indiana is lack of ‘home-grown quality or diversity.’ The real issue should be helping the Indiana community becoming healthier.”

Bedford went on to say that if people are concerned with equality and gender discrimination, they are going the wrong direction. “They should put the same protections in place against commodifying males’ [sperm] that women’s [eggs] currently enjoy.”

Tebbe said, “House Bill 1203 increases the remuneration that ‘egg banks’ can legally receive. Current law limits women and third parties, now egg banks, to travel, hospital [and] medical expenses. HB 1203 expands remuneration to include the retrieval, preservation and transportation of human ova as well as a broad catch-all of services related to IVF.”

House Bill 1203 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a hearing.

For more information on the legislative efforts of the ICC, go to www.indianacc.org.

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

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