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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why You Should Be Worried About Georgia

Figure out this math equation: "hands-off government" senator, Ralph Hudgens + Right to Life group = Bill 169, the piece of Georgia legislation that is being discussed in a committee hearing tomorrow morning. Bill 169, which seeks to impose limits on reproductive rights without regard to the actual people affected by these laws. All for the sake of stopping another set of octuplets from entering the world--since, as you know, higher order multiples is just as much a problem taxing the state of Georgia medical system as obesity and Gonorrhea.

Actually, sorry, the state is the 12th most problematic state in regards to obesity and it rocks out as the 5th most Gonorrhea infested state according to Georgia health statistics. Yet it is 21st in line--almost the midway point--of the 50 states in regards to twin births (no information was available about the rate of triplets and higher). Why not enact legislation restricting the caloric intake of citizens or making it a law that a barrier must be used during all sexual acts? Anything to lessen two greater health risks in the state of Georgia?

Because apparently Ralph Hudgens believes that the threat of octuplets is taxing the state's medical system more than state's higher-than-average rate of heart disease. Or it's higher-than-average rate of diabetes.

It is certainly more important to pass legislation concerning the number of embryos transferred during IVF than it is to pass legislation protecting children from firearm-related deaths. Georgia is a state without legislation on an assault weapons ban or trigger locks required to be sold or safe storage requirements.

But octuplets born via IVF will be the downfall of the great state of Georgia.

According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, Bill 169 aims to
limit the number of embryos transferred during an IVF cycle, and ban the fertilization of any eggs in excess of the number allowed to be transferred. Even if more eggs are produced, they could not be fertilized and cryopreserved for future attempts at pregnancy. In patients under 40, physicians would be allowed to fertilize and transfer only two embryos, and in women over age 40, no more than three embryos. These limits do not meet ASRM guidelines on the number of embryos to transfer, and would affect patients access to care in Georgia. SB 169 would also eliminate any compensation for donor gametes, such as donor egg and donor sperm, severely limiting the number of available donors.
What does this mean in simple terms? And it should be noted that no legislation is being passed to make IVF affordable to the average person who needs to utilize it--Georgia residents do not have mandated health care coverage for infertility. Therefore, citizens will be paying out of pocket (the average IVF cycle costs a little under $10,000) for each cycle.
  • That only two or three eggs will be allowed to be fertilized regardless of how many eggs are collected during retrieval. Regardless of the patient's history or the natural attrition rate with fertilization.
  • That every embryo created must be transferred. There will be no cryopreservation of embryos.
  • Only two embryos can ever be transferred at one time to a woman under 40. Regardless of quality (for those who don't know, embryos are graded in terms of quality). A maximum of three embryos can be transferred in a woman over 40. Of course, you may not have any embryos to transfer if you only fertilized two eggs due to the attrition rate.
  • A complete ban on financial compensation for those who undergo risky procedures in order to donate their gametes thereby ensuring that the available donor gamete pool is greatly reduced.
  • It prohibits stem-cell research from leftover embryos.
Why is this legislation grabbing the attention of all Americans--even those outside of Georgia? Even those not struggling with infertility? Even those not currently trying to conceive?

Because it is what is called back-door politics--the creation of what the majority deem a reasonable bill (after all, what state wants to cover the tab Californians face in regards to the health of the octuplets?) in order to pave the way for additional legislation, in this case, to affect the ruling of Roe vs. Wade. By entering through the back-door, legislation can open up the front door by laying important foundations to helping overturn abortion law. It is no accident that this bill was drafted with help from the Right to Life movement.

It isn't that there aren't sound ideas buried in this bill. Trying to find ways to cut back on the number of embryos cryopreserved is important. Setting up guidelines that can be examined on a case-by-case basis is important. If the bill was only discussing the number of embryos that could be transferred, I don't believe most people would be up in arms. But the bill is restricting the number of eggs that can be fertilized which means that many people who attempt IVF are going to end up with nothing to transfer. Creating laws that restrict doctors from practicing sound medicine, from following their Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm and to act in the best interest of their patients is dangerous. Medicine is more art than science, with each body reacting differently to medications and procedures. One law cannot be in the best interest of every person's health, especially a law that disregards the myriad of ways infertility is caused from uterine anomalies to CBAVD.

This law is giving rights to embryos--not women and men. In fact, it is taking away the rights of women and men to give it to embryos. As the bill states: "A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity." Meaning: you don't get to choose what happens to your gametes once they mix. The state gets to choose.

What can you do? As the AFA states:
The Georgia Senate Health & Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on SB 169 Thursday, March 5, at 9:00 AM in Room 450 of the State Capitol. The committee will hear testimony in the hearing which is open to the public. You're encouraged to attend and voice opposition to the bill.

If you can't make the meeting, you're asked to please contact the Office of Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and express your opposition and concern.

You may also contact your Senator directly by finding him or her at the following web address.
You can blog about it, spread word about it, and make sure your voice is heard loud and clear that what is happening in Georgia is not in the best interest of the citizens of Georgia, nor will it be in the best interest of other states if this bill sets a tone that others follow. That equation is bad math and this bill is bad lawmaking.

No offense to Georgians with Gonorrhea.

cross-posted on BlogHer


Kymberli said...

I've definitely posted about it and emailed each of the committee members. I'll be on edge waiting to hear what happens in my state. I sincerely hope and pray that this type of legislation never establishes precedence, especially not here and not now.

Deathstar said...

OMG, would someone please stick a MUZZLE on N. Suleman, she's just making it worse for so many people out there......

onwardandsideways said...

Yeah, this is seriously scary shit. And to be expected after our friend, the Octomom. God love her.

There were 2 proposals originally, the other regarding embryo adoption which would have imposed the same adoption procedures for child adoption on prospective parents. WTF?

Fortunately, the embryo adoption part has been tabled already.

Some good info on both proposals here:

Kristin said...

This is a scary, scary bill. I pray to God it doesn't pass

Frenchie said...

This is so so frightening. Thanks for spreading awareness. (Gahhhhh!!!)

Lisa said...

This is what I've been afraid of.....are they going to follow this up legislating what happens in people's bedrooms, or is it only those of us suffering with infertility who Georgia feels they have the right to legislate against??

Another Dreamer said...

I say a post about this on "Conceive This!" It scares the crap out of me, because seriously...

I posted a blog about it. I hope the word spreads. This is a horrible bill.

battynurse said...

Oh wow. That sounds like an f-d up mess. What many will likely hear is that it's to help prevent to HOM but there is so much more to it that will be damaging to so many.

Cassandra said...

Clearly no one who would vote for that bill has ever gone through IVF. Or has any knowledge of science. Or can do math.

For my first IVF cycle, I had 13 eggs retrieved, resulting in 5 fertilized embryos of which 2 were worthy of transfer -- 0 to freeze (not that they would allow that). By that math, I would have had to go through 5 to 7 IVF cycles to end up with two to tranfer under the proposed guidelines. Neither of which would have resulted in a viable pregnancy according to the results of IVF #1 (or 2), so I'd have to start all over. Really? More than a dozen IVF cycles to get to where I am now, having transferred four embryos total with zero babies to show for it?

Basically the state of Georgia is begging for its citizens to engage in IVF tourism and find a state or country that will do IVF appropriately. Or they can save themselves a trip and use Clomid or injectibles (like every other high-profile multiples case)-- if they're lucky they'll end up with higher order multiples and cost the state billions.

Cathy said...

There are simultaneously no words and far too many words.

Why not just outlaw IVF altogether? It nearly amounts to the same thing.

Tash said...

I hate to say I told you so . . . but fuck! Knew this would happen!

My idea is that any state legislator who wants to vote on this particular bill needs to take a 20 question quiz about reproduction (basics and advanced) and the name/answers have to be made public. Let's see how much these jokers really know before they go passing bullshit like this. We can start with "transfer" vs. "implant" -- and no fair using your computer!

Star said...

I am trying to tell myself that the legislative process is a long and arduous one, and that the chances of this bill passing and being signed into law are very low . . . but the thought that the limitation on fertilization of retrieved eggs would even be suggested is scary as hell and reflects incredible ignorance of (or callousness about) infertility treatment. And it makes me even more upset at the media, starting with Oprah, for reinforcing the ignorance that already exists about the IVF process and its success rates.

Ellen K. said...

Oh, great. I give Missouri about 10 days before some zealot legislator introduces a similar bill.

Question: Hasn't a European country -- I think it may be Italy -- tried to establish similar laws? How well did that work?

MissMeliss said...

Good grief. This is just ridiculous.

I'll do what I can to help, too... I'm so sick of government trying to take all our rights... sheesh.

Dora said...

This bill is an abomination! But, Mel, I don't understand one thing you wrote:

"Trying to find ways to cut back on the number of embryos cryopreserved is important."

Why? If people are willing to pay storage fees, why does it matter at all how many cryopreserved embryos exist? What to do with extra embryos is such a personal matter. A lot of clinics these days will only freeze top quality blasts, but this is not done to reduce the number of stored embryos, it's done to improve their frozen embryo transfer statistics.

'Murgdan' said...

This just upset me so much. My jaw dropped. I had to write a rush job post before heading out of town and wish I had told EVERYONE to write.

I wrote. I'd be at the Capitol this morning, but I'm out of town. Thanks for getting this disturbing news out.

This just scares me. It really makes me sick.


Georgian without gonorrhea. :)

Jen said...

That is absolutely ridiculous.

Guera! said...

This is all so backwards and I have a million thoughts going through my head...many of them conflicting. I realize this is happening in Georgia and the bill was written by pro-lifers but when I step back and look at the big...really big picture I can't help but be reminded that this country just voted for a president who is actively EXPANDING government's intrusion into our lives. If you read the numerous bills making their way through congress right now (and many people do not) you should be shocked at how far reaching and intrusive many of the bills, when they becomes laws will be. We have to protect our freedoms in ALL areas and not pick and choose those which fit our liberal or conservative agendas. I am conservative. I am pro-life (but not without conflicts) but I am AGAINST the government intruding in our lives and telling us what we (and medical professionals) can do. The smaller the government the better in my all areas. The government does not know better than me and my trusted doctors what is best for me. I hate what is happening right now to this country and most people who do not read the proposed legislation have no clue what is going on. The president and the congress are hiding behind the econonmy and the war while they quietly pass legislation taking away our freedoms and expanding government's control over our lives. I will always vote and protest against anything that takes away or limits our rights and freedoms. Whether that be gun control or reproductive rights. Call me a paradox but I believe in freedom first and less big brother telling me what I can do with my life.

Thalia said...

@ellenK, italy does have this legislation, and it has low rates of both IVF full stop and IVF pregnancies - may or may not be related.

I agree partially with mel inthat if this was just referring to numbers of embryos transferred, it would be fine. Two under 40 and three over 40 is also the law in the UK, and it works well. Multiple studies have shown that increasing the number of embryos transferred does not increase pregnancy rate but does increase multiples rate. Basically the embryologists are pretty good at recognising which embryos to transfer.

The rest of the bill is clearly nonsense, and needs to be stopped.

~Hollie said...

ABSOLUTELY PREPOSTEROUS!! It makes me ashamed to be a southerner when this junk comes out of a southern state. Octomom has done some IRREPARABLE damage to the IF community. It has shed such an awful light on such a sensitive subject.

In so many MANY ways, I wish the government would just BACK OFF and let people live their lives!

Courtney said...

I'm sick over this. I think what bothers me the most is that a so-called "pro-life" organization is trying to limit the ability of infertile couples to experience just that...the miracle of life. I do not think that most people who agree with the pro-life position would be in favor of this bill if they realized the implications for infertile couples. I believe that this group must be a particular religious organization that does not believe that infertility treatments should take place at all. This bill is about completely getting rid of IVF in Georgia...don't let them fool you. It also absolutely sickens me that they would use the octo-mom controversy as a way to fool Georgians that this is a good idea.

I also wrote a post on this issue:

Erin said...

Sometimes I hate living in Georgia. It disgusts me that a party which CLAIMS to prefer to leave more control in the hands of individuals rather than the government is the one that believes it knows better than MY doctor or ME what is best for MY infertility treatment. This is utterly absurd. I have gotten in touch with everyone I can think of for this matter and wish I could have been down at the meeting this morning.

I think the bill has a low chance of passing, but that doesn't make it less scary.

Bethany said...

I live in GA and I am appalled at the thought of this bill passing. My RE is speaking in front of the GA Senate today and their office was handing out fliers to everyone yesterday asking us to send a message to the members on the committee to vote NO.

I am a 41 year woman who is currently going through my 4th IVF. I have been unsuccessful in the last 3 IVFS and I cannot imagine if this bill were in place what I would have done. I had 19 mature eggs, 14 fertilized and when I did PGD testing NONE of them were normal. This scenerio would not have been possible under the new law and at an advanced maternal age I don't have time to wait.

Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention

Bethany said...

I just received the following message from a legislative aide to Senator Adelman:

My name is Daniel Schiff and I am Senator Adelman's Legislative Aide.
Thank you for sharing your viewpoint and support on this important issue with Sen. Adelman. I wanted to let you know that Sen. Adelman agrees with your stance on this issue and has been leading the charge against SB 169. A number of Senators on the Health and Human Services Committee recognized the complicated nature of the proposed legislation and were concerned about its unintended consequences. During the hearing, Senator Adelman proposed a measure to send SB 169 to a subcommittee for further study, effectively barring its progress this legislative session. His
proposal was approved by the committee by a vote of 11-3.

Again, we appreciate your input and support on this important issue.

battynurse said...

Yes, Missouri is also working on similar legislation.
As far as limiting the embryos that are cryopreserved? The right to life groups don't want all those frozen babies, they want them all to be born.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

"This law is giving rights to embryos--not women and men. In fact, it is taking away the rights of women and men to give it to embryos."

Well said, Mel! I love all of your other comparisons on the state of Georgia.
What really pisses me off over this whole thing is that Octomom is one out of millions and millions of people that use ART. This is like a witch-trial and in the end it is the loving, giving people that long to be parents for the right reasons that will be hurt.

Jen J said...

There are no words to describe how f*cked up this is!!! NONE!

Wow! Just wow!

Thanks a lot Nadya!!!!

Angie said...

This is such BS! CNN had a question about this on their show The Cafferty File yesterday afternoon and many wrote about their uninformed opinions.....I wrote from my informed perspective, but it didn't get "approved" by the moderator.

I am all about spreading the word about this and you did a SUPERB job ~ is it okay if I post links to your post on my blog and other sites that I am visit???

Io said...

This bill kills me. Luckily it got sent to study cmmt today so it's chances have dimmed. About half my job is dealing with bills and the legislature here and assuming GA is the same, this shit bill probably won't make it. Knock on wood.

Anonymous said...

This bill is so scary to consider - obviously they don't understand the process. Thank you for posting about this.

Kami said...

It is very scary. Knowing how little the general public understands about the process is scary too because they could pass such a law out of ignorance.

A friend asked why an RE / Fertility clinic doesn't do any screening for gosh sakes. My answer was that everyone else can have as many kids as they want, they shouldn't stop us. She agreed immediately.

I think that "doing no harm" would also mean not transferring a bunch of embryos so that doc should perhaps be reprimanded (at least) but we don't write new laws because of a bad doctor.

FWIW, I transferred 6 embryos twice (and would have done selective abortion if needed) and had 2 miscarriages. I transferred 3 DE and had 1 implant. MY decision. Guidelines - fine. Laws - not until we do forced sterilization on people we decide are / would be bad parents.

Natalie said...

This just scares the shit out of me. And how DARE they try to limit what we can do with what WE are PAYING FOR!! I mean, with my case if something like this were to go through in my state I would be SCREWED. My fert rate is atrocious, so basically by limiting the number that they are allowed to "fertilize" would pretty much mean game over for me and my eggs. And no frozen embryos?? WTF??!?! I can understand, in some twisted way, that some people think all embryos should eventually find a "home" and not get discarded. But NO frozen embryos!??! How does that help anything??

I said to my husband, when the state is paying for ALL treatments, THEN they can start bringing up how many they will agree to transfer. (This is how a lot of europe works - they limit the number of embryos transferred, but it's ALL COVERED. I'd be willing to trade for that, you know? Be a little more cautious because I won't be footing the bill each time.) How DARE they try to limit something they won't even cover. Fucking assholes is all I have to say. OMG my head just wants to pop right off I am so furious.

mid said...

I am a little behind in my reading, but WTF? What is the problem with cryopreservation? How does that limitation solve the perceived problem? The only weapon against ignorance like this is education, education, education. Oh, and the next election.

midlife mommy said...

Um, it's a little early for me. That last "mid" comment was mine. Sorry.