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OPINION: An open door to science...

OPINION: An open door to science fiction in Mississippi

By: Anja Baker - April 28, 2024

  • Baker argues that risks linger with efforts to regulate in vitro fertilization in Mississippi.

Earlier this session, controversy erupted over House Bill 1688, sponsored by Representative Missy McGee (R- Hattiesburg) and pitched as a move to “protect IVF access.” The marketing ploy that HB 1688 was about “protecting IVF” was quite clever, but absolutely false.

No one in Mississippi, or anywhere else for that matter, is seeking to block access to IVF. The bill does highlight, however, the need to start asking about the risks posed by an unregulated IVF industry.

These are questions that cannot be answered properly in the hectic last days of session. Yet, there is a chance that the Legislature will try to do that, as another bill related to IVF, HB 1542, is still “in conference.”

On its surface, HB 1542 deals with the already very complicated issue of how an embryo conceived through IVF is treated in relation to a parent who has passed away before the start of the pregnancy in question. As with any controversial bill “in conference,” it’s possible that lawmakers might use HB 1542 as a vehicle to resurrect the bad, anti-life approach to IVF taken by HB 1688. In the Mississippi Capitol, they say an idea is not dead until it is “dead, dead, dead.”

Instead of subterfuge and deception, the people of Mississippi deserve a more measured
approach that will allow for hearings and debate on the IVF issue. That there is no bill
specifically and directly related to regulating (or not regulating) IVF is telling.

HB 1688 was originally about Medicaid community health workers. HB 1542 is about a complicated legal issue that Rep. Dana McLean has been working on for years. It would be better to have a bill that deals with regulating IVF head on. Next year would be a better time for that bill.

The practice of IVF is legal in Mississippi, and there is no threat to its legality and no movement
to make it illegal. Of course, the purpose of HB 1688 was never to “allow access to IVF.” Its goal
was to force employers and taxpayers to pay for IVF, and to force health care professionals to
offer IVF, regardless of any religious or ethical objections. The same threat exists if the two chambers seek to amend HB 1542.

Another threat would be an amendment granting complete immunity to the IVF industry from any kind of legal action, including the negligent or criminal destruction of embryos. The argument that fertility clinics and doctors must have total legal immunity to operate is bogus.

No other business or industry enjoys such blanket protections. Yet, few businesses are dealing with such personal, life-and-death issues.

And make no mistake. IVF is definitely a business, ably represented by well-heeled lobbyists at
the Capitol. The average IVF cycle costs between $15,000 to $30,000. Couples, who are not
infrequently paying cash, would be well served if IVF were subject to commonsense legal safeguards – that, again, apply to nearly every other business in America.

Such safeguards should also account for the basic dignity of human life. Procedures that once sounded like science fiction are fiction no more: designer babies, three-parent embryos, human cloning, commercial surrogacy, and the creation of human animal hybrids.

In light of such concerns, other countries – Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, for example
– have limitations in place that permit IVF, but disallow degrading and inhuman experimentation
on human embryos. Likewise, Louisiana has had protections in place for decades that limit the
sale and destruction of human embryos while still allowing access to IVF.

Finally, IVF raises a host of religious freedom objections, as hospitals, doctors, and nurses who
morally object to cloning, surrogacy, and other procedures are at risk of being forced to cooperate with such methods. This was a very concrete problem with HB 1688. It would become an issue with HB 1542, should the bill be amended in conference.

The motivation for state lawmakers interested in the various IVF bills is perhaps one of good intentions, considering families who spend years and thousands of dollars yearning for biological children. This is a heavy weight to bear and such couples need prayer and compassion.

However, our celebration and pursuit of more Mississippi families must not be acted upon so hastily that significant bioethical and religious concerns are ignored. Tomorrow’s moral hazards begin today.

About the Author(s)
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Anja Baker

Anja Baker is an advocate for conservative policy in Mississippi. A wife, mother of three, and disability parent, she is passionate about issues that affect the family. Baker completed the William Wilberforce Fellowship with Students for Life of America and Notre Dame de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture's, Vita Institute.
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