In an apparent reaction to the Nadya Suleman case, Georgia politicians have introduced a bill that would limit the number of embryos implanted in a woman, and prevent the freezing additional embryos.
The bill, titled the "Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act," is the most sweeping state legislation on fertility procedures introduced since Suleman gave birth to her octuplets in January, according to the Wall Street Journal. Republican state Senator Ralph T. Hudgens, one of the sponsors of the bill, said in an interview:
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.
The proposed bill would limit the number of embryos implanted in a woman at one time to two, or three for women over 40. It also goes a step further, with limitations on the number of embryos created in the lab to the number being implanted. This would essentially eliminate a woman's ability to freeze her eggs, which is unsurprising, considering the bill was drafted in part by the Georgia Right to Life organization. The group's president, Daniel Becker, tells the Journal, "To us it's a human-rights issue," adding that embryos deserve legal protection "as living human beings and not as property."
Several scientific organizations are opposed to the bill because it would end embryo freezing, and because they say in some cases it's necessary to implant more than two or three embryos. Sean Tipton of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says the lawmakers "don't understand the complicated medicine behind it." Currently, the organization urges doctors to transfer only two embryos at a time into patients under 35, and no more than five in a woman over 40, but the guidelines aren't mandatory.
Resolve, a national fertility association, also opposes the bill. Executive Director Barbara Collura says: "It's the right of the person who has gone through this procedure to decide what they can do with those embryos, not their doctor, and certainly not the government."
While up to this point, we've watched the Nadya Suleman story turn into a tabloid media circus, this legislation marks the beginning of the octuplets' birth spurring actual legal changes. Georgia lawmakers point out that other countries, such as Britain, already limit the number of embryos transferred per cycle. Other countries have found ways to reducing risky multiple births, but they've also adopted policies that don't severely limit women's rights. Hopefully in the U.S., as more states introduce limits on embryo transfers inspired by Nadya Suleman, lawmakers will consult with doctors and create legislation backed by fertility specialists that doesn't also seek to limit reproductive rights.