Bill targets Arizona in vitro clinics
PHOENIX — What's being billed as simply a legislative study of in vitro fertilization could be the first step toward banning the process outright in Arizona.
The proposal by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, requires IVF clinics to provide the state with detailed information on everything from numbers of procedures performed and how many result in pregnancies to the number of embryos ultimately destroyed.
SB 1376, set for debate and vote Thursday on the Senate floor, then would have a committee to decide what state regulation is necessary.
But Kristen Boilini, who represents IVF clinics and the National Infertility Association, said her clients fear something more sinister.
“We know that, for the interests and the proponents behind the bill, every embryo, anywhere, has rights,'' she said.
Boilini cited one provision in SB 1376 that requires the study committee to consider the effects of IVF on “third parties,'' including donors, the children conceived through IVF — and the embryos themselves. And the panel will decide whether regulation is necessary to protect public health “or to protect the interests of third parties.''
She said that paves the way for giving the embryos legal status the state could protect.
Barto would not address questions about whether her measure is the first step toward Arizona prohibiting the destruction of unused embryos, a move that effectively could end IVF in Arizona. But she acknowledged the study committee is designed to do more than gather data.
“People will be concerned about what they hear and there may be proposed legislation. Or we'll learn more about how it actually works and there won't be concerns.''
Anyway, Barto said, there needs to be some study about the effects on donors and children conceived through IVF. Beyond that is a question of the rights of the children to information about their biological parents.
“It's not always the father and the mother getting together and producing a child,'' Barto explained. “It's sometimes a stranger and a stranger.''
She said fears about a hidden agenda have been “blown out of proportion.''
But that fear is buttressed by an alert sent out by Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, urging followers to urge their legislators to support SB 1376.
Herrod said there's nothing wrong with wanting to “bring new life into the world.''
“Unfortunately, the industry's ‘success at all costs' approach may disregard the sanctity of human life at the embryonic stage of development,'' her alert reads. And Herrod said while CAP has no formal position about IVF, “we are very concerned, as every pro-life person should be, about the human lives being sacrificed in the name of building a family.''
“Human life is being created,'' Herrod separately told Capitol Media Services.
“Our public policy in this state clearly sets forth a pro-life point of view.”
Herrod said the legislation will look into the practice, which has not been studied by lawmakers, “and determine whether there is a need to protect life or whether everything is fine and doesn't need a public policy response.''
At its basic level, the legislation requires IVF clinics to provide data to the state.
Boilini said much of this already is collected by the Centers for Disease Control. She said there is no reason to put a new burden on clinics when state health officials can get it from the federal agency.
But there are things in SB 1376 the CDC does not collect, including “selective abortion,'' when a woman who has gone through IVF produces multiple fetuses and chooses to abort one or more. That process is known as “selective reduction.''
Boilini said IVF doctors do not do abortions or are involved with women at that stage.
“Yet if you don't report the data, there are criminal penalties in the bill,'' she said, along with taking away a doctor's license to practice.
But it is that study committee that is giving Boilini the most heartburn, having the state look at the “benefits and costs'' of IVF.
“The government doesn't pay for infertility treatment,'' she said. “Where is the government's interest in doing a cost-benefit analysis on people being able to access infertility treatment?''
Barto sees the issue in broader terms.
She said that, if nothing else, a report detailing the number of embryos destroyed could create political support for new limits.
“We can, for sure, inform people that this is happening because pro-life people care about life from its earliest, from conception to natural death.
“So it's part of the pro-life continuum that people understand what is happening in their communities.''
Lawmakers have pushed the issue before.
In 2010 the Legislature adopted a bill spelling out what information has to be provided to a woman before she can donate an egg for IVF. That includes hormones provided and the risks of the surgery.
Boilini said doctors here did not object because much of this already was required by federal law.