Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Judith Daar and Erez Aloni on Mitochondrial Replacement

The Los Angeles Times - op-ed:  Three genetic parents -- for one healthy baby, by Judith Daar & Erez Aloni (both of Whittier Law School):

New technology would enable women who carry harmful mutations in their mitochondria to have a child without those harmful mutations. Despite concerns, that's a good thing.

Since January, a new California law allows for a child to have more than two legal parents. But children are still limited to two genetic parents. That could change soon, if the Food and Drug Administration approves human clinical trials for a technique known as mitochondrial replacement, which would enable a child to inherit DNA from three parents.

News of the pending application has caused a kind of panic not seen since Dolly the sheep was cloned, raising the possibility of a single genetic parent. But far from being the end of the human race as we know it, the technique might be a way to prevent hundreds of mitochondrial-linked diseases, which affect about one in 5,000 people. . . .

March 21, 2014 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Study Verifies Reliability of DNA Test for Fetal Genetic Disorders

The Los Angeles Times: Study calls DNA test reliable in discovering fetal disorders, by Monte Morin:

The screening more accurately identifies likely cases of genetic disorders caused by extra chromosomes, like Down syndrome, in a study of low-risk pregnant women.

It's billed as a faster, safer and more accurate way of screening expectant mothers for fetal abnormalities like Down syndrome, and proponents say it has already become the standard for prenatal care.

But as a handful of California companies market their DNA-testing services to a growing number of pregnant women, some experts complain that the tests have not been proven effective in the kind of rigorous clinical trials that are required of new drugs.

Now, a study published Wednesday by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has verified that one of the tests can identify likely cases of Down syndrome and other genetic disorders caused by extra chromosomes in low-risk women with greater reliability than traditional noninvasive screening methods. . . .

March 1, 2014 in Bioethics, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

FDA Advisory Panel Debates Ethics of "3-Parent Embryo" Procedure

USA Today: FDA raises concerns about three-parent embryo procedure, by Karen Weintraub:

In two days of hearings ending Wednesday, a federal committee proved quite skeptical about research that might help some patients birth healthy children — but might also open the door to human gene manipulation.

The procedure being considered, called mitochondrial transfer, would mix the genes of two women in hopes of creating a healthy baby. . . .

WebMD: FDA Explores '3-Person' Embryo Fertilization, by Dennis Thompson:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration hearings opened Tuesday on a controversial fertilization technique that uses the DNA from three people -- two women and one man -- with the goal of preventing inherited genetic diseases. . . .

February 26, 2014 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Brain-Dead, Pregnant Canadian Woman Kept on Life Support, at Husband's Request, To Save Fetus

Reuters: Brain-dead Canadian woman kept on life support to save fetus, by Julie Gordon:

A 32-year-old Canadian woman who has been declared brain dead is being kept on life support in a Victoria, British Columbia hospital, with doctors working to keep her alive long enough to deliver her unborn son. . . .

February 5, 2014 in Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Increased Genetic Testing of Embryos Raises Ethical Questions

EmbryosThe New York Times: Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases, by Gina Kolata:

. . . Genetic testing of embryos has been around for more than a decade, but its use has soared in recent years as methods have improved and more disease-causing genes have been discovered. The in vitro fertilization and testing are expensive — typically about $20,000 — but they make it possible for couples to ensure that their children will not inherit a faulty gene and to avoid the difficult choice of whether to abort a pregnancy if testing of a fetus detects a genetic problem.

But the procedure also raises unsettling ethical questions that trouble advocates for the disabled and have left some doctors struggling with what they should tell their patients. . . .

February 5, 2014 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Defense of Sex-Selective Abortions

The Guardian (op-ed): Why women have a right to sex-selective abortion, by Sarah Ditum:

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it's to select for sex, that's her choice

When you talk about being pro-choice, sex selective abortion is often slung at you as the triumphant gotcha. "You love women so much you want them to be in charge of what grows inside their bodies, but what about the women who are aborted, have a go at answering that? ZING!"

The answer is actually remarkably simple, and it's this: it doesn't matter whether what's growing inside you is liable to end up as a man or a woman. What matters is whether the person it's growing inside – the person who is going to have to deliver the resulting baby, at not inconsiderable personal peril – actually wants to be pregnant and give birth to this child. . . .

September 20, 2013 in Abortion, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pew Poll Compares Public's Views on Morality of Abortion vs. Other Embryo-Destroying Procedures

Pew Research - Religion & Public Life Project: Abortion Viewed in Moral Terms: Fewer See Stem Cell Research and IVF as Moral Issues:

Regardless of their views about the legality of abortion, most Americans think that having an abortion is a moral issue. By contrast, the public is much less likely to see other issues involving human embryos – such as stem cell research or in vitro fertilization – as a matter of morality. . . .

___________________________________

Lifenews seems somewhat puzzled by the discrepancy:

A new Pew research poll finds Americans say abortion is morally wrong by a 3-1 margin. However, Americas are still divided on the issue of embryonic stem cell research — even though it destroys human life and still has not helped any patients. . . .

But perhaps anti-choice groups themselves are partly to blame:

The Atlantic Wire: Americans See Abortion, But Not Stem Cell Research, as a Moral Issue, by Abby Ohl Heiser:

. . . While the issue is currently framed in "momentum" language familiar to any election horse race aficionado, our views on its legalization overall have stayed pretty steady since Roe v. Wade. . . . So what's momentum got to do with it?

For starters, the far-right legislative push to pass a series of abortion-restricting laws is bringing a cornucopia of moral associations with it, ones that resonate with conservative-leaning politics. . . .

________________________________________

For scholarly analysis of this issue, see my articles The Meaning of 'Life': Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate and Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement?

-CEB

August 17, 2013 in Abortion, Bioethics, Public Opinion, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Despite Advances, Ethical Problems Continue to Surround Premature Birth

The New York Times - op-ed: End of Life, at Birth, by April R. Dworetz:

FIFTY years ago this Wednesday, Americans were gripped by the fate of a baby — Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the first child born to a sitting president since the 19th century, and John F. Kennedy’s last. He arrived on Aug. 7, 1963, five and a half weeks premature. Despite medical heroics, including the use of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, he died 39 hours later.

Neonatal care has improved greatly since then. Were he born today, Patrick, who was delivered at 34 weeks’ gestation, would very likely survive and have a healthy life, too.

For all the biomedical advances, though, the key ethical problems surrounding premature birth remain. . . .

____________________________________

H/T: Carol Sanger

August 7, 2013 in Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

California Bill Raises Questions About How to Protect Human Egg Donors

The Los Angeles Times - op-ed: Leveling the field for human egg donors, by Naomi Cahn & June Carbone:

A bill before Gov. Jerry Brown would make it legal for research programs to pay for human eggs, as they do for sperm. But the issue is complicated.

In the United States, there is a competitive market in human eggs provided for reproductive purposes. An "extraordinary" egg donor can earn as much as $50,000 when she offers her eggs to an infertile couple. In California, however, that same "extraordinary" individual would receive nothing, aside from payment for her direct expenses, if she provided those same eggs for research purposes. That could change soon. . . .

July 15, 2013 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Glenn Cohen and Travis Coan on Mandatory Sperm Donor Identification

I. Glenn Cohen and Travis G. Coan (both of Harvard Law School) have posted Can You Buy Sperm Donor Identification? An Experiment. Here is the abstract:

In the United States, most sperm donations are anonymous. By contrast, many developed nations require sperm donors to be identified, typically requiring new sperm (and egg) donors to put identifying information into a registry that is made available to a donor-conceived child once they reach the age of 18. Recently, advocates have pressed U.S. states to adopt these registries as well, and state legislatures have indicated openness to the idea. This study re-lies on a self-selected convenience sample to experimentally examine the economic implications of adopting a mandatory sperm donor identification regime in the U.S. Our results support the hypothesis that subjects in the treatment (non-anonymity) condition need to be paid significantly more, on average, to donate their sperm. When restricting our attention to only those subjects that would ever actually consider donating sperm, we find that individuals in the control condition are willing-to-accept an average of $$43 to donate, while individuals in the treatment group are willing-to-accept an aver-age of $74. These estimates suggest that it would cost roughly $31 per sperm donation, at least in our sample, to require donors to be identified. This price differential roughly corresponds to that of a major U.S. sperm bank that operates both an anonymous and identify release programs in terms of what they pay donors.

June 7, 2013 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Men and Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Surrogate Refuses Biological Family's Monetary Offer to Have Abortion

NBC Connecticut: Surrogate Gives Birth Against Biological Family's Wishes, by Josh Chapin:

The couple offered her $10,000 to have an abortion, but she refused.

When a Vernon woman was hired to be a surrogate in 2011, she never expected that the decision would lead to a more agonizing decision about the fate of a little girl, a battle in the courts and a move out of state so she had the power to make choices about the child's welfare. . . .

See also:

NBCNEWS.com - Vitals: $10,000 to abort? Surrogacy case reveals moral holes bioethicist says, by Arthur Caplan:

Crystal Kelley got paid $22,000 to have a baby. But that wasn’t the only offer the 29-year-old Connecticut mother of two received. After an utrasound at 21-weeks revealed significant medical issues, the parents offered her $10,000 more if she agreed to an abortion.

The gross immorality of that second offer tells us that there is a lot wrong with the first arrangement. It is intolerable that our society continues to put up with an unregulated, free market in hiring cash-starved women to make babies.  . . .

Washington Post - She The People blog: Surrogate mother refused abortion: Right? Wrong? Damned to hell?, by Aly Neel:

A surrogate mother and the couple that hired her make a painful discovery after an ultrasound: Their unborn child will have serious health problems and will possibly never have a “normal” life.

The biological parents, who say they cannot bring a child into the world to endure so much suffering, offer the surrogate, who is struggling to make ends meet, $10,000 to abort the baby. . . .

March 6, 2013 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 4, 2013

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Addresses Bioethical Questions Surrounding Reproductive Technology

WNYC - The Brian Lehrer Show: Ask a Bioethicist: Reproductive Technology:

We begin a series about medical ethics with Duke University bioethicist Nita Farahany, who sits on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Each week, she'll discuss some of the thorniest bioethical conundrums of our day.

Today's topic: Reproductive technology. We want your suggestions of bioethical questions we should discuss. Should parents be able to choose the sex of their baby? Should there be age limitations on people who undergo in vitro fertilization? That kind of thing. Ask your question below and we'll tackle as many as we can.

The show airs on Tuesday, March 5.  Submit your question here.

March 4, 2013 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sarthak Garg and Keshav Gaur on Reproductive Rights of Surrogate Mothers in India

Sarthak Garg & Keshav Gaur (both of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law) have posted Reproduction Rights of Women: Ethical or Viable Role of Surrogate Mother on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Reproductive behavior is governed by complex biological, cultural and psychological relations, hence reproductive health and rights must be understood within the context of relationships between men and women, communities and societies. This research encompasses with these problems which concerned about the reproductive health and rights of the women. It furthermore explains the vulnerability of women and gender biased violence against them. This paper also laid stress on the impact of men’s action over the reproductive health and rights of the women and the key initiatives to deliver reproductive rights and services to the women. Though, this paper also focuses on the rights of the surrogates’ mother and the initiatives taken by the government for the enhancement of the surrogacy and their rights in India. In this research we conceptualize the incidents related to the surrogacy and the legal issues in the global scenario. However, we also gestate the landscape of surrogacy in India, as it is new concept for India and not acceptable as well on various portfolios so we also laid focus on the social and economic background for the profound this concept in the grass root level. While construing this research we also analysis the Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) bill, in that we critically analysis it’s positive and negative aspects for the concept of surrogacy in India. Eventually, this research also laid impact over the commissioning parents and their rights regarding surrogacy. In the conclusion our research concludes procreating a child in surrogate woman’ womb is grateful gift to those mothers who cannot conceive child.

December 10, 2012 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, International, Parenthood, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

British Columbia Conservative MP's Motion on Sex Selective Abortion Stirs Controversy

The Province: Battle looms over Tory MP's motion on sex-selective abortion, by Jordan Press: Canadianflag

A Conservative backbencher’s motion on sex-selective abortions caught the ire of opposition parties Wednesday, with the NDP and Liberal leaders claiming it was another attempt to outlaw abortion, while the MP behind the proposal called it a stand for human rights.

The volleys over Tory MP Mark Warawa’s motion are part of an ongoing tug-of-war between anti-abortion MPs who want to claim the motion for their cause, and advocates who want to keep the proposal distanced from the politically controversial abortion debate. . . .

December 9, 2012 in Abortion, Bioethics, International, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Richard Storrow on Judicial Review of Restrictions on Gamete Donation in Europe

Richard F. Storrow (CUNY School of Law) has posted Judicial Review of Restrictions on Gamete Donation in Europe on SSRN. Here is the abstract: Image1

The decision of S.H. and Others v. Austria vindicates the right of governments to enact restrictions on gamete donation against claims that these restrictions violate the guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights. Van Hoof and Pennings in this issue predict that legal diversity on the question of gamete donation will persist in the wake of this decision and discuss how the decision itself is insufficiently protective of the private and family interests of individuals who seek reproduction-assisting medical treatment. This commentary discusses the difficult balancing work of the European Court of Human Rights, its questionable expansion of the margin appreciation doctrine in S.H. and Others v. Austria and how the decision might influence national courts in the future.

December 5, 2012 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Fertility, International, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jaime King on Prenatal Genetic Testing and Abortion Politics

Jaime Staples King (Hastings College of the Law) has published Not This Child:  Constitutional Questions in Regulating Non-Invasive Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis and Selective Abortion in the UCLA Law Review. Here is the abstract:

Jaime staples kingRecent developments in abortion politics and prenatal genetic testing are currently on a collision course that has the potential to change the way we think about reproduction and reproductive rights. In the fall of 2011, the first noninvasive prenatal genetic test for Down syndrome entered the commercial market, offering highly accurate prenatal genetic tests from a sample of a pregnant woman’s blood without posing a risk to the fetus or the mother. In the last five years, over fifty biotechnology start-ups have been created to offer noninvasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) for an ever-widening range of genetic and chromosomal conditions. Because of its noninvasive nature, relatively low cost, and early timing, NIPD has the potential to become standard prenatal care for all pregnant women, providing them information on hundreds of genetic and chromosomal characteristics of their prospective offspring soon after they discover the pregnancy. Moreover, the technological development of NIPD has occurred alongside a significant political development: A handful of states have passed or attempted to pass legislation that restricts abortion based on the reasons for which it was sought. These laws have mainly prohibited abortions sought for sex- or race-based reasons, but proposed legislation would also restrict abortions sought for a wider range of genetic conditions. 

The collision of these political and technological developments raises two questions regarding reproductive autonomy: (1) whether the Fourteenth Amendment protects a woman’s right to abort a fetus for any reason; and (2) whether that protection includes the right to access genetic tests that could inform the abortion decision. This Article argues for the reaffirmation of a woman’s right to choose to abort for any reason and grounds that right in strong principles of liberty and autonomy, rather than sex equality. In the context of reproductive genetic testing, the Article identifies a legitimate state interest, previously unrecognized in abortion jurisprudence, in avoiding significant harm to society based on widespread discriminatory selective abortion. The Article then proposes a new framework for examining the regulation of reproductive genetic testing that balances the relevant state and individual interests in a novel manner.

November 10, 2012 in Abortion, Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Opinion Piece Challenging Purported Appeals to Science in Support of "Fetal Pain" Abortion Bans

The New York Times - Opinionator:  Can Neuroscience Challenge Roe v. Wade?, by William Egginton:

When I was asked this summer to serve as an expert witness in an appellate case that some think could lead to the next Supreme Court test of Roe v. Wade, I was surprised.

Rick Hearn is the attorney representing Jennie McCormack, an Idaho woman who was arrested for allegedly inducing her own abortion using mifepristone and misoprostol — two F.D.A.-approved drugs, also known as RU-486 — and for obtaining the drugs from another state over the Internet. While the case against Ms. McCormack has been dropped for lack of evidence, Mr. Hearn, who is also a doctor, is pursuing a related suit against an Idaho statute, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (Idaho Code, Section 18-501 through 18-510), and others like it that cite neuroscientific findings of pain sentience on the part of fetuses as a basis for prohibiting abortions even prior to viability. . . . 

October 30, 2012 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Bioethics, Fetal Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ethical Questions Raised About Fertility Clinic Raffles

The New York Times: Clinic Raffles Could Make You a Winner, and Maybe a Mother, by Douglas Quenqua:

Raffle

“That’s right, one lucky woman will win the ultimate chance at starting or building her family,” said a contest announcement issued in April by Long Island I.V.F., a clinic in Melville that offers in vitro fertilization to women who are having difficulty conceiving. . . .

October 23, 2012 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Fertility, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kristine Knaplund on Children of Assisted Reproduction Technology

Kristine S. Knaplund (Pepperdine University School of Law) has posted Children of Assisted Reproduction on SSRN. Here is the abstract: Image1 

More than three decades after the birth of the first child conceived through in vitro fertilization, few states have comprehensive statutes to establish the parentage of children born using assisted reproduction techniques (ART). While thousands of such children are born each year, courts struggle to apply outdated laws. For example, does a statute terminating paternity for a man who donates sperm to a married woman apply if the woman is unmarried? In 2008, the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) added two much-needed sections on the complicated parentage and inheritance issues that arise in the field of assisted reproduction. Yet it is unclear whether states will enact these new UPC sections; few states have enacted comparable provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). The issues can be controversial, particularly regarding children born years after an intended parent’s death, or when the discussion turns to enforcement of a contract for a gestational carrier, the preferred term for a surrogate mother.

This article explores the legal landscape for children conceived through assisted insemination (AI), in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and other techniques. The article discusses the differences between the UPA and UPC sections that concern assisted reproduction. It examines the critical normative and ethical questions answered by these statutes and analyzes the likelihood that states will adopt either uniform act. The article looks briefly at gestational carrier agreements to consider whether and how they should be enforced. The article concludes by noting the need for legislation, the virtues of the UPC over the UPA, and the hope that states will address all those who use ART, including gay and lesbian couples, and single parents.

September 23, 2012 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Parenthood, Scholarship and Research, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Scott Burris and Matthew Weait on Criminalization and Moral Responsibility for Knowing Sexual Transmission of HIV

Scott Burris (Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law) and Matthew Weait (University of London – Birkbeck College, School of Law) have posted Criminalisation and Moral Responsibility for the Sexual Transmission of HIV on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The essay that follows is an effort to take on a narrow but important question in a serious, though limited, way. The question is whether there is a MORAL case for lifting primary responsibility for Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention from the shoulders of those who know they are infected. The question is important because, for many people, it feels so obviously right to require those with HIV to accept this responsibility that punishing them as criminals if they fail to do so seems a natural, logical and entirely fair next step. As far as we can tell, objections to HIV exposure or transmission laws to date have rested on practical, rather than moral concerns. We will ask whether there is a good moral case to be made against criminalisation.

There are two important things we will not do. We will not address the use of criminal law to deter or punish people who deliberately expose others to HIV with the aim of causing harm or with callous disregard of a significant risk of transmission. Like other commentators, we regard trying to harm others as wrongful and subject to prosecution regardless of the weapon used; our only concern in such a case, from the HIV perspective, is that a defendant not be punished more harshly only because the chosen weapon was the virus3 The second thing we will not do is attempt a moral analysis that is culturally comprehensive. The people of the world have developed many powerful systems of moral thought. We investigate our moral question within just one, the Western tradition of deontological ethics and liberal political philosophy. Our purpose is not, ultimately, to define for all people and all places a morality of HIV exposure, but to test whether the case for assigning primary moral responsibility for HIV to the person infected is as strong as it is assumed to be.

September 22, 2012 in Bioethics, Scholarship and Research, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)