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Mississippi House Moves to Protect IVF...

Mississippi House Moves to Protect IVF Access

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 5, 2024

  • Provisions to protect assisted reproductive technology were placed in a bill last week in an attempt to codify the rights of patients and healthcare providers for procedures such as IVF.

A bill that was originally drafted to address Medicare and Medicaid services for the state plan was altered last week to include what is being called that “Access to Family Building Act.”

The committee substitute, which was adopted in the House Medicaid Committee, was offered by State Representative Missy McGee (R) in response to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling last month regarding personhood of Invitro-fertilization (IVF) embryos.

State Rep. Missy McGee

“With all of the attention and latest developments in the state of Alabama I think a lot of other states are rightfully concerned – could there be efforts in Mississippi to limit access for families who are going through IVF or assisted reproductive technologies,” said McGee. “I felt like we ought to address the issue to protect couples who are trying to conceive a child.”

Because the Legislature was already in session, Rep. McGee took the opportunity to add the Access to Family Building Act language to another bill as the deadline to introduce new bills had already passed.

McGee added that she has constituents in her own district that were seeking treatment in Alabama who were forced to pause that process after the ruling.

The Alabama case centered around three plaintiffs who successfully underwent IVF treatment at a fertility clinic in the state. However, remaining embryos created through the process were ultimately destroyed when a cryo-tank was opened and the embryos fell to the ground.

The original case was dismissed, as it was filed as a violation of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. However, the couples appealed the case to the Alabama Supreme Court, which led to the determination the invitro embryos did maintain personhood.

The new House legislation in Mississippi addresses any “assisted reproductive technology” which is defined by Congress’ Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act of 1992.  

The purpose of the added section is to permit healthcare providers to provide, and for patients to receive, assisted reproductive technology services without limitations or requirements for those who seek to grow their families. It further codifies a healthcare provider’s right to perform and assist with reproductive treatments and provide services from evidence-based information, or already medically accepted reproductive practices in Mississippi.

McGee’s proposal allows an individual to retain all rights to their reproductive genetic material when accessing assisted reproductive technology.

The legislation provides that any person who has been impacted by an alleged violation of these codified rights can file a civil action against any state or local government that attempts to limit their ability to access reproductive technology. This will also extend to the healthcare provider and staff.

Rep. McGee has offered legislation in the past to require health insurance companies to cover costs of infertility treatment and diagnosis, but the bills have failed to pass both chambers.

Mississippi has three board certified reproductive endocrinologists, and two who are not yet certified, that conduct fertility treatments to help families. One of those is Dr. Preston Parry with Positive Steps Fertility in Madison. He said since the ruling in Alabama and in the wake of the Dobbs decision, patients are anxious and scared when it comes to fertility treatment.

“My understanding is that Mississippi values family building, it values children, and as a state where our population is declining, we want people who want to have children. The more we can do to protect them, the brighter the future for our state,” said Dr. Parry.

Dr. Parry said he and his staff treat patients from multiple states, including Alabama. However, where they typically see 5 percent interest from Alabama residents, they have seen an uptick to 10 or 15 percent since the February Supreme Court ruling.

For his clinic, and many in the U.S., Dr. Parry said they use a company called ReproTech to preserve embryos created through IVF. This is an out-of-state facility where the embryos are stored long-term.

“Embryos that could be transferred and have a reasonable probability of resulting in a pregnancy are shipped to ReproTech for long-term storage. ReproTech stores about 50 percent of the embryos in the U.S.,” said Parry.

The length of time embryos are stored vary from person to person. Embryos are often utilized in additional transfers for IVF patients who are attempting to grow their families.

“Patients are saying, ‘I do not want a judge or a legislator in my bedroom or my exam room.’ It’s that simple,” said Dr. Parry, noting the added frustration that comes from women who do not believe someone else’s definition of what a child is should get in the way of their ability to have one of their own.  

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: