How Could Heartbeat Bills Affect IVF Procedures for Hopeful Parents?

Many of the hopeful parents who read our website have gone through or considered fertility treatments at one time or another. In fact, the majority of parents who eventually choose adoption do so after completing several in vitro fertilization cycles.

Whether you are ready to move on to adoption or you are still considering your family-building options, it’s important that you are 100 percent aware of the political environment surrounding fertility treatments at this time. To help our audience of prospective adoptive parents, we’re tackling a controversial but crucial topic — new abortion bans across the United States.

You’ve probably heard about the newly proposed restrictions on abortion making it impossible for women to terminate a pregnancy after a heartbeat can be heard — as early as six weeks into pregnancy. These bills are, in essence, total bans on abortion, as few women are aware they are even pregnant that early into the pregnancy. Other states, such as Alabama, have passed laws that ban abortion completely and allow for the prosecution of women who go out of state to receive the procedure.

While we won’t touch on the ethical and moral implications of abortion as a whole, we do want to discuss an important topic — how these bans may actually affect the future availability and legality of fertility treatments such as IVF.

Why Selective Reduction and Termination is Used in IVF Cycles

First things first: We want you to be fully educated about how and why pregnancies are terminated during the fertility treatment process.

People who use fertility treatments to conceive are much more likely to get pregnant with more than one child. While the rate of multiple embryo transfers is falling, many patients today still request for more than one embryo to be transferred to their womb at once. IVF is expensive; transferring two (or more) embryos in one cycle can save hopeful parents’ money and increase the likelihood of success.

However, it’s well acknowledged that a multiples pregnancy carries more risk to the pregnant woman and the embryos than a singleton pregnancy. A multiples pregnancy is more likely to result in a miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. Women who carry multiple fetuses are also more likely to develop serious complications such as preeclampsia and placental abruption.

To reduce these risks, reproductive endocrinologists will suggest selective reduction — that is, using medication to stop one (or more) fetus’s heart and create a singleton pregnancy.

But, singleton pregnancies aren’t immune to these procedures, either. Even though embryos are screened for genetic disorders prior to transfer, there is always the possibility of a disorder or chromosomal abnormality developing in utero. In these situations, some parents make the tough choice to terminate their pregnancy before attempting another IVF transfer.

Selective reduction and termination aren’t used frequently in fertility treatments, and they’re not used flippantly. However, they play an important role in the journeys of many hoping to become parents.

So, How Could “Personhood” and “Heartbeat” Bills Affect Would-Be Parents?

Many of these “heartbeat” bills are in essence “personhood” bills — applying all the rights of a living human being to a fetus or embryo. While these bills may pass to mainly limit the right of women to terminate their pregnancies, they can also have an unintended effect on the thousands of hopeful parents who use IVF to add children to their families.

An integral part of the fertility process is creating embryos in the lab, testing them for viability, and transferring only the healthiest ones for the best chance of success. It’s typical for hopeful parents to have leftover viable embryos or have embryos that would never be viable for a successful pregnancy. In most cases, they have three options: donate the embryos to another hopeful parent or to research, store them indefinitely, or discard them.

But, when those embryos are assigned the rights of a living human, discarding them or donating them to research is out of the question. Hopeful parents would be forced to store the embryos indefinitely or donate them to other parents, even though donation of their genetic material is not something everyone is comfortable with.

Heartbeat bills could make necessary termination and selective reduction illegal, and parents could be prosecuted for murder.

As one infertility psychologist theorizes:

“In short, as legislation regarding at what week of pregnancy an abortion can be performed potentially changes, such laws affect IVF. The assignment of personhood to embryos will mean that IVF clinics will no longer be able to create, freeze, or dispose of them. It would also prevent the retrieval of eggs for fertility preservation because those eggs would be used in the future to create embryos, thus creating ‘life’ in the lab.”

In turn, those states that have “personhood” or “heartbeat” legislation could see a drastic reduction in infertility patients and a drop in overall birth rate. Hopeful parents would be unable to add to their family in the way they truly want to. While adoption will always be an option, it’s important to remember it’s not the right path for everyone. It requires intended parents to grieve the loss of a genetic connection to their child — and that can be a dream that’s hard to let go of.

Here at ConsideringAdoption.com, we support everyone’s right to choose — or not to choose — adoption as they see fit. Many of our hopeful parent readers find themselves stuck between adoption and further infertility treatments at some time, which is why we want to offer the information they need to do what’s right for them.

For more information on adoption after IVF, please contact a professional for free today.

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