Archive for the ‘in the news’ Category

Then They Came For Me

When the Georgia Senate Bill 169 was introduced, a friend of mine asked me why I was so up in arms about it. “After all,” he said, “You don’t live in Georgia. It doesn’t affect you.”

Doesn’t affect me? Really? First, I don’t believe it’s true that just because I don’t live in Georgia the bill doesn’t affect me. But even if we postulate that it’s true that it doesn’t affect me – does that mean we should sit idly by while other states create laws we believe to be morally unacceptable?

What of Martin Niemoller’s words:

First, they came first for the Communists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . Then, they came for me . . .
And by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

While I admit that in most cases, I’m content to sit back and let others do my work for me. For the most part, I’m willing to let people far more competent than I be the indignant ones. I am not an activist. I am not a take-charge person. Heck, I failed at even Taking Charge of My Fertility, for crying out loud. But when Georgia introduced SB 169 something in me simply… snapped.

And now? Maryland? Gah.

Maryland hasn’t done anything nearly as drastic as the garbage that Georgia pulled. They’ve done something far more subtle, and (in my opinion) almost more dangerous. Maryland has introduced House Bill 925, the so-called “Maryland Personhood Amendment,” a bill that would amend the Maryland Constitution “to establish that the right not to be deprived of life is vested in all human beings, irrespective of age, health, function, physical dependency, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of their biological development.”

This amendment would, essentially, give a fertilized egg legal rights.

This would lay the groundwork to ban abortion in Maryland, should a federal ban on abortion ever be lifted (with the current make up of the Supreme Court – I wouldn’t be shocked to see the already shaky Roe v. Wade fall). It certainly could lay the groundwork for restrictions on abortion to be put in place in the state.

And – it could lay the groundwork for legislation limiting access to emergency contraception, etc. Imagine that.

Closer to home – it could also open the door to legislation like the Georgia bill which limits on ART and human embryo stem cell research. It could even affect laws surrounding embryo adoption/donation.

NARAL has a form that you can fill out (if you live in Maryland) to send a letter to your delegate protesting the bill. Or, better yet, you can email your representative in the Maryland House of Delegates. You can find your representative in this list.

I know there are plenty of you out there who will disagree with me. And I’m okay with that. I do believe that two adults can disagree and stay friends. Please do feel free to respectfully disagree with me in the comments section. But hateful comments will be removed, please understand that. Any, and all, respectful comments are welcome, regardless of whether you agree with me.

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The Georgia Senate actually passed that damn bill.

Resolve has posted that they will review the revised version of the bill and post a full analysis as soon as they know more.

Okay, found the revised version of the bill:

Here’s the bill as passed:


It essentially took out all the provisions relating to numbers of embryos created, numbers of embryos transferred and ownership of embryos.

It leaves in all the language that would ban use or donation of embryos for stem cell research.

Still completely offends me, but at least it doesn’t essentially ban IVF all together, which the original bill practically did.

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Ahem. Now that I’m over my little hissy fit from last night. And, um, this morning. And, um, this afternoon… Have I calmed down over the proposed Georgia legislation? In a word? Not so much. It turns out, I’m a wee bit, shall we say, opinionated.

Let’s review this proposed legislation, shall we? In plain English, the Georgia so-called “Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act” (the title makes me want to vomit a little, how about you?) seeks to do the following:

1. Limit the number of embryos transferred in an IVF cycle to 2, if under 40 (3 if 40 or over).
2. Limit the number of eggs fertilized (and therefore the number of embryos created) per IVF cycle to the number of embryos the woman is planning to transfer. (e.g. no more than 2 in a woman under 40, 3 in a woman 40 or over). If more eggs than that were retrieved in a cycle, those additional eggs could not be fertilized.
3. If extra embryos are created, they may not be cryopreserved or destroyed; they must be transferred. (In other words, if 2 are created, a woman may not opt to transfer a single embryo and cryopreserve the remaining embryo, she must transfer both of the the embryos to her uterus).
4. The bill also bans all financial compensation for donor gametes (sperm, eggs, embryos). This would seriously limit the donor pool in Georgia. It may, in fact, eliminate it entirely.

Note, of course, that the bill does not propose any financial relief or mandated insurance coverage (Georgia does not currently have an insurance mandate either) to help with the added financial burden of using less effective treatment. Patients will still have to pay out of pocket for less effective treatment.

Here’s the first thing, and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I am never going to support legislation that attempts to regulate what I believe needs to remain a discretionary decision between a doctor and a patient. Should, under most circumstances, 2 embryos transferred in an IVF cycle be an appropriate course of action? Absolutely. Do most doctors today follow that guideline? Statistics are showing that, yes, doctors are trending that direction quickly. But are there ever circumstances of patient history, embryo quality, etc. that might suggest a different course of action may be appropriate? Certainly. And that’s when legislation like this is inappropriate. Think about it: If a legislator can dictate how a doctor practices his/her field in infertility then there is no telling what may happen down the line with other specialties. Would you want a politician telling your cardiologist when it’s appropriate to do a cardiac catheterization? Or when your neurologist can prescribe beta blockers? Maybe only on alternate Thursdays?

So now that we’ve got out of the way that I have a blanket opposition to any sort of legislation like this, let’s move on, shall we?

Let’s think about the provisions a little more.

Limiting the number of embryos transferred. Sure it seems sensible. Gosh, I sure don’t want to continue this epidemic of octomoms and HOMs, do you? I mean, do you remember all those sextuplets that were all born a couple years ago? Oh. RIGHT! Those were all from IUI! That’s RIGHT! Octomom just happens to be the first case of octuplets born as the result of IVF well… ever. And sextuplets? Right, also generally IVF. In fact, most cases of quads and triplets even are the result, not of IVF, but of IUI. Even twin statistics in IVF are going down because with the increasing popularity and success rates with eSET when used in an appropriate patient population, you can reduce your twin risk from upwards of 40% down to as low as 1%, without lowering your overall success rate. So this epidemic of HOMs that the great state of Georgia is so concerned about happening in their state? What was it Ralph T. Hudgens said? “Nadya Suleman is going to cost the state of California millions of dollars over the years; the taxpayers are going to have to fund the 14 children she has … I don’t want that to happen in Georgia.” Oh because Nadya Suleman’s pregnacy was, what? Contagious? Um. No.

In fact, limiting the number of embryos transferred in an IVF cycle may seem quite sensible. And, in fact, the ASRM and SART do have guidelines that recommend doing exactly that. They have, over the years, been dramatically lowering the number of embryos they recommend transferring in an IVF cycle and are recommending eSET with increasing frequency these days. While they are guidelines, the statistics do show that by and large, doctors in the industry are following them. And doctors who are found to be consistently in violation of these guidelines can have their SART membership revoked. Think that’s not such a big deal? Well, think again, because many insurance companies will only cover doctors who are members in good standing with SART. So legislation? Just not necessary, and, honestly? Quite possibly harmful because it takes away the discretionary ability of the doctor for the case-by-case determination of a patient’s needs.

Now what about this fertilization/embryo creation business? I’m sorry, but this is utter crap. The bill proposes limiting doctors/embryology labs to only fertilizing up to 2 eggs per IVF cycle for women under 40 (3 for women 40 or over). The politicians/Right to Lifers who wrote this bill clearly have no grasp of the medical science at play here. There is generally an attrition rate on embryos and it can be as high as 50-75%. What do you do then? It’s too late now to make another, so now you’re stuck.

So I’ll give you a personal example. In my last IVF cycle, I had 10 eggs retrieved, 9 were mature and miraculous, all fertilized and were 2 celled embryos the next day. By Day 3 I had 7 crappy looking Embryos. On Day 5, I had 4 “meh” looking morulas. On Day 6 (transfer day), I had 2 decent looking blastocysts. I transferred one. The other didn’t make it to freeze (and neither did the other ones that had been lagging behind). My cycle failed. The Georgia politicians who were so worried that if I fertilized all 9 of my mature eggs I’d end up with 8 little human beings (and make no mistake, the language of the bill makes it clear that they believe that my embryos are living human beings) on ice indefinitely after I transferred my one blastocyst on day 6? Needn’t have worried. Nothing made it to freeze. If I’d only fertilized 2 eggs in the first place? I may never have even made it to transfer, but I would have probably blown about $10K for nothing.

Note, the bill provides for no additional financial relief, such as insurance coverage to help with the added financial burden of using less effective treatment.

Further, note that if I made two embryos in the hypothetical scenario, and miraculously, both survived until transfer day – I would have to transfer both embryos to my uterus. I would not be allowed to destroy it, per the language in the bill (actually, it’s so poorly written, that there’s a loophole there, but the INTENT of the bill is to keep people from destroying embryos, so let’s go with that for the sake of argument, for the moment). Nor would I be allowed to cryopreserve the embryo. So me, who cannot under any circumstances risk having another multiple pregnancy, would have to transfer two embryos because of the way this law is written. OR I would have to simply have fertilized only one egg in the first place, again risking that my one embryo ever made it to transfer.

And banning all compensation for donor gametes? That’s just tacky.

What I hadn’t realized was that there was a second bill being considered this morning. SB 204/HB388 is an embryo adoption bill. It would subject embryo donation to all the same provisions as required by law for adoption of a child. This would subject infertility patients needing an embryo donation to go through the judicial proceedings, home visits, and other procedures required for an adoption. Do you really think this is appropriate? Is this really what you want?

But back to SB169…. there’s a lot of disturbing language in the bill: In disputes arising between any parties regarding the in vitro human embryo, the judicial standard for resolving such disputes shall be the best interest of the in vitro human embryo. Yeah, what? That’s a custody standard used for custody disputes involving children. How exactly is the judicial body going to apply that standard to an embryo?

Another example of disturbing language: Nothing in this article shall be construed to affect conduct relating to abortion as provided in Chapter 12 of Title 16; provided, however, that nothing in this article shall be construed or implied to recognize any independent right to abortion under the laws of this state. To hell if this isn’t a reflection on abortion stance. And this bill was written, in part, by the Georgia Right to Life Campaign. You think that this wasn’t written as a right to life issue? WHATEVER.

More disturbing (emphasis mine): A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity. The fertility physician and the medical facility that employs the physician owe a high duty of care to the living in vitro human embryo. Any contractual provision identifying the living in vitro embryo as the property of any party shall be null and void. The in vitro human embryo shall not be intentionally destroyed for any purpose by any person or entity or through the actions of such person or entity.

I’ll let you figure out why that one bothers me.

Let’s be clear…. either the politicians who drafted this law understand NOTHING about the medical science behind IVF and how it works and didn’t care enough to consult a single doctor or embryologist while drafting this bill. OR, alternatively, they DO understand the science, and they seek, instead, simply to eliminate IVF from Georgia entirely. And in doing so, they’ll shut down a $50million dollar (give or take) industry in Georgia and they don’t care that they’re doing so.

I don’t want another set of HOMs. I’d like to see fewer HOMs resulting from fertility treatment. Truthfully, I think this piece of legislation could potentially INCREASE the number of HOMs because it will make IVF so difficult to effectively obtain in Georgia that people will instead turn to IUI with injectible gonadotropins. And guess what happens then?

So… have I calmed down over this proposed piece of crap? Not so much. But I’m quite glad that it was sent to subcommittee for “further research.”

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BettyRubble wrote a comment:
To be honest, I think [the Georgia bill on embryo transfer limitations is] very reasonable. It is unfortunate that it took the birth of octuplets to “command” that a bill be nessessary when most doctors use common sense for how many embryo’s to transfer. I could see an uproar if they said one regardless, but two is reasonable.

Note: Here is the bill. I recommend reading through it.

And I responded… not nearly as articulate as my original post, but this will do for the moment:
If it were JUST about limiting the number of embryos transferred I MIGHT agree with you IN THEORY. (Except that I will never agree with legislating something which I believe needs to be a discretionary medical decision – particularly in a state that does not have an insurance mandate. If the state of Georgia isn’t going to mandate that insurance companies help PAY for IVF then limiting IVF in this manner is just plain ridiculous).

HOWEVER, they don’t just limit the number of embryos to be TRANSFERRED in a cycle. They limit the number of embryos to be CREATED in a cycle. And that is ridiculous. This means that for a woman under 40, only 2 eggs can be fertilized in an IVF cycle and no one will ever have any embryos to freeze (they are specifically trying to avoid a case where anyone will ever have cryopreserved embryos – so that they won’t have a Nadya Suleman who has six embryos frozen and decides to transfer them all at once – I get that, but it’s stupid, because she’s the EXCEPTION). (by the way, this is, I believe, the practice that Italy follows – and they have possibly the lowest IVF success rates in the world).

So if you only fertilize 2 eggs – and hey, guess what? That’s going to mean everyone has to use ICSI from now on, so tack on $5K to every cycle cost at the expense of the individual since there’s no insurance mandate in the great state of Georgia! Anyway, so if you only fertilize 2 eggs, you’re now facing the well-known attrition rate that you always face in the embryology lab. Many women won’t ever make it to transfer.

Yes, you can freeze the eggs that you don’t fertilize. But there’s a reason this isn’t commonly done. Egg cryopreservation is relatively new – eggs are far more fragile than embryos and don’t withstand the cryopreservation process nearly as heartily as embryos do. They don’t survive at nearly as frequent a rate as embryos do, and we all know that even embryos have a pretty high attrition rate in the thawing process (though that attrition rate is getting better over time).

So say neither of your two embryos make it to transfer. Now you’ve got a woman who’s lost a whole shitload of money on her IVF cycle and now has to scrape together money for an FET – oh wait! there IS no FET. But they’ll thaw a couple of her eggs – IF they survive and hopefully make 2 more embryos – IF they can – and then she’s stuck in a holding pattern on Lupron and estrace (PLEASANT drugs to be on LET ME TELL YOU!) while she’s waiting to see if this is even going to work, and maybe while they sit around trying to see if this will even work, and hoping that her lining gets to be thick enough, and, oh gosh, that darned attrition rate, well, we only got one crappy embryo out of it because one of them didn’t make it and the other egg was a little damaged coming out of the thaw process. So we’ll transfer one in a patient who wasn’t actually an ideal candidate for eSET.

Oh and I’m ALL FOR eSET in the ideal patient set, remember. But eSET is best used when you’ve got a bunch of embryos that you culture out to day 5 and let natural selection choose which one is the best one. And remember, I had 9 embryos growing on Day 2 for my last IVF cycle. By Day 5, I had 4 almost-blastocysts (morulas) I think. By Day 6 I had 2 blastocysts to choose from and a couple struggling ones. Nothing made it to freeze, including that second blastocyst.


So Georgia’s worries about me having six embryos leftover to freeze from my 9 embryos I started out with? Hogwash.

Per the Wall Street Journal: The bill was drafted in part by Georgia Right to Life, an organization that opposes abortion and seeks regulation that would treat embryos as human beings. “To us it’s a human-rights issue,” said Daniel Becker, Georgia Right to Life’s president. Embryos deserve legal protection “as living human beings and not as property,” he said.

This is where I take issue. Turning IVF into a Right to Life issue gets my blood boiling.

The bill further states that the embryos are NOT the property of anyone and that any custody disputes arising about the embryos will be decided by the judicial body “in the best interests of the embryo.” Now, that’s a standard used in custody cases for children. How exactly is the judicial body going to apply that standard to a blob of cells sitting in a petrie dish?

“Nadya Suleman is going to cost the state of California millions of dollars over the years; the taxpayers are going to have to fund the 14 children she has,” Republican state Sen. Ralph T. Hudgens, one of the sponsors of the bill, said in an interview. “I don’t want that to happen in Georgia.”

Tell me that isn’t him admitting this was a knee-jerk reaction?

I can’t condone a law that was written, not with the aide of medical practitioners with time and thought put into it, but in a knee-jerk reaction, with a mere month between the time of the birth of those octuplets and the release of this bill and written by politicians and the Georgia Right to Life.

The bill (if passed as written) will shut down the Georgia IVF industry as far as I can figure – because people will simply go out of state to get better, more successful, care – a multi-million dollar industry for their state.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg on what my issue with the bill is.

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I wrote a very articulate and scathing post about Georgia’s proposed bill on restricting the number of embryos transferred and created in an IVF cycle.

But then I went to copy the post to my clipboard before posting it just in case anything happened to it while posting it and a slip of the keyboard erased the entire post.

Suffice it to say, I was brilliant. And I might re-write the post later, but, um… not now.

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