Slate's William Saleten is all over the IVF-regulation beat. Today, he follows up on the Georgia bill that was an ill-disguised effort to confer personhood on cell clusters. It was amended, but still has issues.
While the bill was more or less gutted, it would prohibit cloning (and fertilizing an egg with material from another egg, which is technically possible) and it would only allow it for the treatment of infertility, which is the more problematic part. Saletan explains:
Resolve remains unhappy that the bill doesn't clearly permit IVF for "women who have medical conditions like kidney disease that prevent them from carrying a pregnancy, but who are not usually considered to have 'infertility.'"
But Saletan assumes that's more of an oversight than an agenda. The agenda, he thinks, is to limit or eliminate the creation of embryos for genetic testing.
That use is the screening of embryos for unwanted genes: preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
PGD began with screening for fatal childhood diseases but has gradually expanded to flaws that are less lethal, less harmful, less likely to cause disease, and less likely to strike early in life.
It's used for everything from screening for gender to screening for deformities to (supposedly) screening for physical characteristics like hair and eye color. Saletan considers it all a "slippery slope."
The bill is part of a nationwide project to regulate the emerging industry of embryo production. In one state or another-and then another and another-legislation will be filed to restrict IVF. Based on the Georgia experiment, these bills will probably make exceptions for infertility but not PGD. The battles, then, will be fought over which uses of PGD are acceptable. And these fights will be every bit as ugly as the preceding fights over abortion.
Regulating embryo production, as Saletan terms it, comes from the same religious movement that regards embryos as having souls — they're pushing personhood amendments and anti-abortion laws while seeking to eliminate federal funds for stem cell research and prevent cloning. So, I agree that it is a slippery slope, though for different reasons than Saletan.
This is one of those issues that will be hard for pro-choice advocates to fight. Most people are not keen on parents who abort girl fetuses because they are girls — and the religious people will argue that discarding embryos for the same reasons is equally bad. They'll argue that discarding fetuses because they're got brown-haired genes instead of blonde is as bad as aborting children for the same reason. And, as it is difficult to argue that sex-selective or eye-color-selective abortions are justifiable, the pro-choice movement will have difficulty arguing about the justifiability of PGD for reasons chosen by parents (or mothers) as opposed to governments. And then the government will be back regulating when and for what reason you can choose to make decisions about the contents (or soon-to-be contents) of your uterus. So the real question is whether you think you can trust to government to give you the choices it deems appropriate, or whether it is worth letting a few bad actors poison the choice pool.
Dish Respect [Slate]