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"Personhood' law could hurt in-vitro vertilization
Date published: 2/17/2012
RICHMOND--Advocates of fertility treatments say Del. Bob Marshall's "personhood" bill could end in-vitro fertilization in Virginia.
The bill defines life as beginning at conception. Marshall, R-Prince William, an ardent opponent of abortion, says the bill is intended to create a legal cause of action for wrongful death of a fetus, but acknowledges it could open the door to outlaw abortion in the future.
The bill passed the House of Delegates earlier this week, with opponents saying it could prohibit most forms of birth control.
According to Resolve, the National Fertility Association, Marshall's bill could also prohibit IVF.
Marshall has said his bill specifically protects fertility treatments.
The last line of the bill reads, "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception."
But Barbara Colura, Resolve's director, said she reads the bill differently.
She said other sections of the bill would change what is "lawful," which means the definition of "lawful assisted conception" could be changed by the bill.
"We believe he is wrong, and the public needs to know," Colura said at a news conference in Richmond.
She said the bill could outlaw the freezing of embryos--a procedure frequently used in IVF treatments. It might ban the donation to research of embryos that are no longer needed by a woman trying to get pregnant. And it could affect cases in which a woman using IVF has become pregnant with a number of embryos--doctors sometimes reduce their number to give the remaining fetuses a better chance of survival, and the bill could make that illegal.
The bill, Colura said, is "very ambiguous.
"It could virtually shut down a whole field of medicine here in the commonwealth," she said.
Resolve brought women to testify about how their efforts to get pregnant through IVF could be harmed by the bill.
A woman named Whitney, from Roanoke, was in tears
"It is very scary and completely unclear as to whether my doctor or I would be criminally liable for my own miscarriage," she said. "The Virginia legislature is not my physician."
Marshall's bill does include a provision that says, "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care."
Marshall's bill is awaiting action in the Senate.
Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245