Fertility doctors express concern over SC’s proposed ‘Personhood Bill’

Source: WMBF News
Source: WMBF News

COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - State House representatives cannot make a decision as to when a person becomes a person.

The bill is called the Personhood Bill and it seeks to define a person as a fertilized egg.

If passed, Heather Cook, one local OBGYN and infertility doctor at Coastal Infertility Specialists, said it could have massive implications for couples and families in South Carolina trying to start a family.

The full judiciary committee went back and forth Tuesday at the Statehouse and, ultimately, the bill was carried over by a vote of 19 to four, which means the bill is being sent back to the Subcommittee.

Cook and her staff believe that is a good thing and said what happens to an embryo lies with the progenitors, not with the state, and there is considerable uncertainty an embryo will successfully develop to become a person.

According to Cook, a main threat in how the Personhood Bill is written is the fact it would eliminate the use of all of their treatments involving in-vitro fertilization, where doctors are using embryos in the laboratory environment.

"We do this for numerous reasons - patients that have male-factor infertility issues, patients that have tubal or fallopian tube disease, and also for a lot of our patients that are undergoing fertility preservation because they've had cancer of other medical diagnosis," Cook said. "So this really would prevent any of those options for patients and would not allow those couples to undergo fertility treatment to have their own children."

Coastal Infertility Specialists said it's important as a fertility community to stay on top of the Personhood Bill. Cook said they must educate patients and the people of South Carolina on what the implications are to prevent this from becoming a law in the future.

"For any of our couples needing fertility services that deal with in-vitro fertilization or fertility preservation, this bill would essentially eliminate those options for couples so much that some may actually be forced to go out of state to seek fertility care," Cook said.

One of the main problems Cook said is defining an embryo as a person.

"When we have an embryo in our laboratory, which is when an egg and sperm fertilize, we know that does not mean that embryo is going to survive to be a pregnancy or human being," Cook said. "In fact the majority, around 70 to 80 percent, probably will never make it to a pregnancy or to a human being. So giving that early embryo the same rights that you and I have and deeming that a person is really scientifically incorrect. So we don't think that is an appropriate designation for an embryo."

"If the goal, which I believe the goal is, to outlaw abortions in South Carolina why don't we take that up rather than take up a bill that would outlaw in-vitro fertilization, a law that doesn't provide any exceptions for rape or incest and clearly that's unconstitutional, and a law that in three other states on the ballot - Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota - no flaming liberal states have all defeated it overwhelmingly," Sen. Brad Hutto said. "This bill has never passed anywhere."

As the first item for the first meeting of the year, Sen. Luke Rankin said with regard to politics, policy, religion and morals, the Personhood Bill will not be taken lightly.

"I am not preaching to anybody here, but to think we are going to whisk through this without heavy and thoughtful debate is foolhardy," Rankin said. "So if we can - and I would invite those with pro and con constructive amendments - let us see them and give them to staff. Let the members of this committee see them. Don't hide it."

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