Overturning Roe v. Wade threatens access to safe fertility care. Here's why.
For many people, conception is not a moment, it is a process. For many families, life begins after a months-long – sometimes years-long – process that is the most painful, impactful and hopeful journey of people's lives. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will have a devastating impact on this journey.
Safe access to abortion is a critical, life-saving part of the fertility treatment journey. Overturning Roe v. Wade will only serve to make the conception journey more painful, higher-risk and more uncertain for all.
22 states are set to ban abortions in the near term. 5 of the 22 will have near total bans. 6 of the 22 will introduce bills establishing fetal personhood – the idea that every fertilised egg is entitled to full protection of the law – and in Oklahoma, SRJ 17 cleared the senate in March.
These laws are worryingly vague on the distinction between an embryo in a petri dish and an embryo implanted in a uterus. In our world, that distinction is critical. Lawmakers say they do not seek to impact Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). The language of their laws says otherwise. Where fetal personhood is established, embryo freezing, preimplantation genetic testing and other life saving advances in ART hang in the balance. Desperate families used to focus on their chances of conceiving. Now, in 22 states, they must also focus on the legalities of conceiving.
How will access to fertility care change?
One thing is clear; this Supreme Court decision will limit access to life-saving advances in reproductive care.
In the short term, we may see ART in those 22 states play out as it did in Italy, where a law passed in December of 2003 prohibited embryo freezing. In the aftermath of this law's passing, a study of Italian couples showed that 66% wanted their frozen embryos disposed of before the law passed. Within the first 2 months of the law being passed, at least 46 couples instructed their fertility clinic to dispose of or donate their embryos, deliberately defying the law in pursuit of freedom of choice. We must do everything in our power to ensure that reproductive care in those 22 states does not go this way. Recent history has provided us with a lesson. We must not waste it.