Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The Guardian: Britain's House of Lords approves conception of three person babies, by Hannah Devlin:
Britain has become the first country in the world to permit the use of “three-person IVF” to prevent incurable genetic diseases.
The House of Lords voted by 280 votes to 48 on Tuesday evening to approve changes to the law allowing fertility clinics to carry out mitochondrial donation. Babies conceived through this IVF technique would have biological material from three different people – a mother, father and a female donor. . . .
Technically the baby would have three biological parents, with 99.8% of genetic material coming from the mother and father and 0.2% coming from the mitochondrial donor. . . .
PBS: Why the term 'three-person baby' makes doctors wince, by Rebecca Johnson:
MELAS is one of about 200 known mitochondrial diseases, a subject that has featured prominently in the news since the British Parliament’s House of Commons on Feb. 3 approved further testing and research on mitochondrial replacement IVF. The procedure has beencommonly referred to in news stories as “three-person babies” or “three-parent babies.”
But it’s a term that makes doctors wince. . . .
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Newsweek: Twins: The Fetal Paradox, by Amy Klein:
In 2004, Danielle Decrette went in for in vitro fertilization. It wasn’t her first time—she and her husband had a 3-year-old daughter conceived through IVF—and she knew what she was getting into. Just as he had four years before, Decrette’s doctor stimulated her with hormones, extracted her eggs from her ovaries, fertilized them with sperm in the lab and placed the resulting embryo in her uterus. But this time the process failed. So the doctor decided to transfer two embryos in the next round to increase her odds of getting pregnant.
“You know you could have twins,” the doctor warned her before the procedure. . . .
That was 10 years ago. Today, fertility doctors would almost certainly have pushed her away from the idea of a two-embryo implant . . . .
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
CNN: Time-lapse video reveals secret life of an embryo, helps women conceive, by Kieron Monks & Samantha Bresnahan:
It is estimated that around one in four couples around the world have trouble conceiving. For a small proportion of them, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is a technology that can restore the dream of parenthood.
IVF is the fertilization of an egg by sperm outside the body, where it is cultivated in a lab environment, and if an embryo results it is implanted into the mother's womb. Now the chances of IVF treatment being successful are being boosted by a machine called the Embryoscope. . . .
The commonly accepted practice of selecting only certain embryos for implantation in IVF illustrates that most do not believe embryos have the moral status of persons.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Study Finds that Men's "Biological Clock" Means Higher Risk of Mental Illness in Children Born to Older Fathers
The New York Times: Mental Illness Risk Higher for Children of Older Fathers, Study Finds, by Benedict Carey:
Children born to middle-aged men are more likely than those born to younger fathers to develop any of a range of mental difficulties, including attention deficits, bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, according to the most comprehensive study to date of paternal age and offspring mental health. . . .
. . . Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. . . .
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Guttmacher Institute: A Year of Magical Thinking Leads to...Unintended Pregnancy, by Rebecca Wind:
In-depth interviews with 49 women obtaining abortions in the United States found that most of the study participants perceived themselves to be at low risk of becoming pregnant at the time that it happened. According to "Perceptions of Susceptibility to Pregnancy Among U.S. Women Obtaining Abortions," by Lori Frohwirth of the Guttmacher Institute et al., the most common reasons women gave for thinking they were at low risk of pregnancy included a perception of invulnerability, a belief that they were infertile, self-described inattention to the possibility of pregnancy and a belief that they were protected by their (often incorrect) use of a contraceptive method. Most participants gave more than one response. . . .
Saturday, October 26, 2013
In recognition of Intersex Awareness Day, I'm pleased to publish this commentary by Courtney Fraser, Fall Intern at Advocates for Informed Choice (’15, University of California, Berkeley School of Law):
There’s no “I” in LGBT: How Reproductive Justice can (and must) end intersex invisibility
“Intersex? What’s that?” – so begins a series of questions I have become quite accustomed to fielding in my Civil Externship seminar. My classmates, some of whom are avid social justice advocates, are all familiar with reproductive rights; many of them even support LGBT causes, but few have ever heard the word “intersex” before. Most people probably haven’t. In honor of International Intersex Awareness Day, October 26, I’d say there’s no time like the present.
“Intersex” describes those who are born with ambiguous genitalia, or bodies that otherwise do not match societal ideas of “typical” male or female configurations. My externship this fall is with Advocates for Informed Choice, an (read: THE) organization working to protect the rights of intersex people. Right now, I have the honor of being involved with AIC’s groundbreaking litigation on behalf of a child (identified as M.C.) who suffered unnecessary genital surgery while he was still a baby. When I am called upon to explain my work to the class, invariably someone is shocked. That happens? All the time. To how many people? As many as 1 percent of live births are intersex, and 0.1 or 0.2 percent become victims of “normalizing” surgical mutilation.
So why aren’t more people outraged? Why do so few people even know about this?
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The New York Times: Hospital Mergers Reset Abortion-Access Battle, by Kirk Johnson:
Politicians seeking to restrict access to abortion, a marked trend this year from North Dakota to Arkansas, tend not to get much traction in this part of the country.
Washington is heavily Democratic, leaning left especially on social issues. A majority of voters even put into law a statutory right to abortion in 1970 — the only state ever to do that. The governor, Jay Inslee, a Democrat, is pushing the Legislature even now to pass a law at a special session on Monday requiring health insurers to pay for elective abortions, another first for the state if it makes it to Mr. Inslee’s desk.
But now a wave of proposed and completed mergers between secular and Roman Catholic hospitals, which are barred by church doctrine from performing procedures that could harm the unborn, is raising the prospect that unelected health care administrators could go where politicians could not. . . .
H/T: Grayson Barber
In addition to prohibiting abortions and certain kinds of end-of-life care, Catholic hospitals also refuse to provide contraception (often including emergency contraception for rape survivors), sterilizations, and infertility services. For more about the threats posed by these mergers, see the MergerWatch website.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Maneesha Deckha (University of Victoria – Faculty of Law) has posted Legislating Respect: A Pro-Choice Feminist Analysis of Embryo Research Restrictions in Canada on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article investigates the impact of legislating respect and dignity for the embryo in vitro on the legal and cultural status of the embryo in utero. It evaluates the restrictions on embryo re-search in Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) to consider whether they should receive pro-choice feminist support. Specifically, the article explores whether it is possible for feminists to accord respect to the in vitro embryo, as the AHRA attempts to do, without jeopardizing sup-port for abortion. The article canvasses the theoretical possibilities of this position by comparing the compatibility of feminist articulations of a right to abortion (bodily integrity and equality) with feminist arguments against the expansive use of embryos in research (commodification and exploitation). The article argues that it is logically compatible for feminists to promote “respect” and “dignity” for in vitro embryos while maintaining a pro-choice position on abortion. The article nevertheless cautions against feminist support for AHRA as it currently stands given that, on a practical basis, a feminist understanding of the AHRA’s restricted embryo research regime is difficult to achieve in the public sphere. The article explains why the more likely result for the public sphere will be an unqualified discourse of respect and dignity for embryos in general, which could then problematically revive the abortion debate and destabilize the non-personhood status of the in utero embryo. As a remedy, the article provides recommendations for how AHRA should be amended so as to better ensure that legislative restrictions on embryo research signal a legislative intent that respects women’s reproductive autonomy.
Monday, December 17, 2012
The Hill - Healthwatch Blog: Senate vote to cover fertility care for female military servicemembers, by Ramsey Cox:
The Senate passed a bill Thursday to cover military service members’ in vitro fertilization (IVF) services through the veterans healthcare system.
Senate Veterans Affair Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, S. 3313, which would improve VA services for women veterans and veteran spouses and end the ban on (IVF) services at VA to help severely wounded veterans start families. . . .
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Richard F. Storrow (CUNY School of Law) has posted Judicial Review of Restrictions on Gamete Donation in Europe on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
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.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Jim Hawkins (University of Houston Law Center) has posted Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics' Websites on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Scholarship on assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has emphasized the commercial nature of the interaction between fertility patients and their physicians, but little attention has been paid to precisely how clinics persuade patients to choose their clinic over their competitors. This Article offers evidence about how clinics sell ART based on clinics’ advertising on their websites. To assess clinics’ marketing efforts, I coded advertising information on 372 fertility clinics’ websites. The results from the study confirm some suspicions of prior ART scholarship, while contradicting others. For instance, in line with scholars who are concerned that racial minorities face barriers to accessing ART, I found that 97.28% of the websites that contain pictures of babies have pictures of White babies, and 62.93% have pictures of only White babies. Similarly, in agreement with prior work that challenges the effectiveness of self-regulation, I find low levels of compliance with industry-sponsored advertising regulations. Contrary to the assumption held almost universally in the literature on ART, however, I found that clinics do not prioritize advertising their success rates. Clinics’ websites are more likely to emphasize several other attributes of care instead of their success rates. In light of the new data uncovered by the study, I conclude by offering new regulatory directions for policymakers to consider as they try to keep up with changes in the fertility business.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The New York Times: Clinic Raffles Could Make You a Winner, and Maybe a Mother, by Douglas Quenqua:
“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. . . .
Saturday, August 18, 2012
DC Bar: Reproductive Technology and the Law, by Anna Stolley Persky:
Enid Abrahami, a single mother by choice, conceived her first child with her own egg and a stranger’s sperm, thanks to a fertility clinic in New York. Abrahami then gave birth to her son in Israel, where she lives these days. She had no trouble attaining her son’s American citizenship. Abrahami, who has dual Israeli and American citizenship, grew up in both New York City and Tel Aviv.
When she decided to have a second child, Abrahami found that she was having trouble getting pregnant using her own eggs. So this time she used both somebody else’s egg—called a donor egg—and sperm from the same donor used to conceive her son. Again, for her second child, a daughter, the embryo was transferred to her uterus in New York and the baby was born in Israel.
But this time, when Abrahami went to fill out the paperwork for her daughter’s citizenship, a U.S. Embassy official learned that she was a single mom and had used donor sperm. . . . Abrahami was told that she could not transfer her citizenship onto her daughter. She was told that citizenship is transferred only through DNA, and that she needed proof that at least one of the donors was a U.S. citizen. . . .
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Kara W. Swanson (Northeastern University-School of Law) has posted Adultry by Doctor: Artificial Insemination, 1890-1945 on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In 1945, American judges decided the first court cases involving assisted conception. The challenges posed by assisted reproductive technologies to law and society made national news then, and have continued to do so into the twenty-first century. This article considers the first technique of assisted conception, artificial insemination, from the late nineteenth century to 1945, the period in which doctors and their patients worked to transform it from a curiosity into an accepted medical technique, a transformation that also changed a largely clandestine medical practice into one of the most pressing medicolegal problems of the mid-twentieth century. Doctors and lawyers alike worried whether insemination using donor sperm was adultery by doctor, producing illegitimate offspring. Drawing upon the legal and scientific literatures, case law, popular sources and medical archives, I argue that insemination became identified in medicine and law as a pressing problem at mid-century after decades of quiet use because of the increasing success of the technique, increasing patient demand, and increasing use -- three interrelated trends that led to increasing numbers of babies whose origins were “in the test tube.” In examining the history of a medical procedure becoming a legal problem, I also trace the development of a medical practice in the face of legal uncertainty and the shifting control of the medical profession over assisted conception. I argue that doctors modified the way they treated patients in response to perceived social and legal condemnation of artificial insemination, keeping tight control over all aspects of the procedure, but that doctors’ persistence in meeting patient demand for fertility treatments despite such condemnation helped make artificial insemination into a medicolegal problem. Once it became identified as a medicolegal problem, artificial insemination became the subject of a broad social discussion, in which medical voices did not receive automatic deference, and medical control was challenged.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
ABC News: Teacher Fired After Receiving Fertility Treatments, by Russell Goldman:
A Catholic school teacher in Indiana is suing a diocese there, claiming that she was unlawfully terminated after school officials learned she was undergoing fertility treatments to become pregnant.
In a federal lawsuit filed in a Fort Wayne, Ind., teacher Emily Herx claimed that she was fired and told by a senior church official that her attempt to become pregnant through in-vitro fertilization made her a "grave, immoral sinner." . . .
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Organizations Challenge Dangerous Proposed Initiative to Redefine “Person”
Originally released March 29, 2012
Corrected March 30, 2012
Robyn Shepherd, ACLU National, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma, (405) 525-3831; email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – A lawsuit was filed today on behalf of six Oklahoma voters – including women’s health providers – against an Oklahoma ballot initiative that would ban vital health services by granting fertilized eggs and embryos the same constitutional rights as people. The voters are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“By their own admission, the proponents of this initiative aim to strip women and families of their established right to decide whether and when to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “This initiative insults Oklahoma women’s intelligence and dignity by denying access to basic health services.”
If passed, the initiative would outlaw many critical reproductive health services, including all abortion care, commonly used forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization and treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.
"It’s been nearly four decades since the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to safe, legal abortion services,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Yet state legislatures continue to attack that right through dangerous, outrageous initiatives such as this one. This is unacceptable. We must respect a woman’s capacity to make private, personal decisions about her reproductive health with her doctor and her family.”
More information on this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/re-initiative-petition-no-395-state-question-no-761-or-oklahoma-personhood
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Chicago Tribune/Reuters: Anti-abortion 'personhood' bill clears Oklahoma senate, by Steve Olafson:
Oklahoma lawmakers edged closer toward trying to outlaw abortion on Wednesday by approving "personhood" legislation that gives individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception.
The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 34-8 to pass the "Personhood Act" which defines the word person under state law to include unborn children from the moment of conception. . . .
The bill text is available here.
Monday, January 30, 2012
The Washington Post - PostPolitics: Gingrich vows to ban embryonic stem-cell research, questions in vitro practice, by Karen Tumulty:
As former House speaker Newt Gingrich courts evangelical voters in advance of Tuesday’s Florida primary, he is drawing an increasingly hard line against the use of embryonic stem-cell research — a position that contrasts not only with that of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, but also with statements that Gingrich himself has made on the subject in the past.
Speaking at a Baptist church in Winter Park on Saturday, the former speaker received a standing ovation when he declared that embryonic stem-cell research amounts to “the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies.” . . .
BBC News: Testicular zap 'may stop sperm':
A dose of ultrasound to the testicles can stop the production of sperm, according to researchers investigating a new form of contraception.
A study on rats published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology showed that sound waves could be used to reduce sperm counts to levels that would cause infertility in humans.
Researchers described ultrasound as a "promising candidate" in contraception. . . .
Friday, January 27, 2012
I. Glenn Cohen (Harvard Law School) has posted Rethinking Sperm-Donor Anonymity: Of Changed Selves, Non-Identity, and One-Night Stands on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In the United States, a movement urging legally prohibiting sperm-donor anonymity is rapidly gaining steam. In her forthcoming article in this journal, The New Kinship, and in her wonderful book, Test Tube Families, Naomi Cahn is among this movement’s most passionate and thoughtful supporters. She argues for mandatory sperm-donor registries of the type in place in Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, and, most recently, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The UK system is typical in requiring new sperm (and egg) donors to put identifying information into a registry and providing that a donor-conceived child “is entitled to request and receive their donor’s name and last known address, once they reach the age of 18.”
In this Article, I explain why the arguments for these registries fail, using Cahn’s Article as my jumping off point.
I demonstrate four problems with the arguments she offers for eliminating anonymous sperm donation: (1) Her argument for harm to sperm donor and recipient parents fails in light of the availability of open-identity programs for those who want them, such that she imposes a one-size-fits-all solution where it would be better to let sperm donor and recipients parents choose for themselves. (2) Her argument for harm to children that result from anonymous sperm donation fails for reasons relating to the Non-Identity Problem. This portion of the Article summarizes work I have done elsewhere, most in-depth in Regulating Reproduction: The Problem With Best Interests, 96 Minn. L. Rev. _ (forthcoming, 2011), http://ssrn.com/abstract=1955292, and Beyond Best Interests, 96 Minn. L. Rev. _ (forthcoming, 2012 and up on SSRN soon). (3) She has sub silentio privileged analogies to adoption over analogies to coital reproduction. When the latter analogy is considered, her argument is weakened. I show this through a Swiftian Modest Proposal of a Misattributed-Paternity and One-Night-Stand Registry paralleling the one she defends for sperm donation. (4) The argument may not go far enough even on its own terms in endorsing only a “passive” registry in which children have to reach out to determine if they were donor conceived, rather than an “active” registry that would reach out to them. If we recoil from such active registries, that is a reason to re-examine the reasons in favor of the less effective passive ones.
For the reasons discussed, despite my admiration for this paper and all of Cahn’s work, I am not persuaded by the argument for adopting a mandatory sperm-donor identification registry of the kind in place elsewhere in the world. Indeed, I think these registries should be eliminated, not replicated. At a moment in which the idea of these registries is rapidly gaining popularity and attention in the United States, I hope my dissenting voice will be heeded.