Jul 23, 2022 - Health

IVF centers lobby for protections in post-Roe landscape

Illustration of a syringe and abstract shapes
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The demise of Roe v. Wade is prompting intense lobbying from IVF centers to keep the process from getting tangled up in a raft of new abortion bans and restrictions.

Why it matters: It’s another way that the elimination of a federal right to abortion is subsuming other forms of reproductive care.

Driving the news: IVF interests — led by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine — are trying to persuade red state legislatures to adopt language that would exempt IVF from trigger laws that ban or restrict abortion.

  • "We are in for a prolonged period of uncertainty," said Sean Tipton, the organization's chief advocacy, policy and development officer. "It's not just what legislatures decide. There will be court challenges to let the judicial branch decide what the legislation says."

How it works: The IVF process works by fertilizing eggs with sperm in a lab and then transferring that fertilized egg — or embryo — to a uterus. But it's common that some embryos wind up going unused.

  • The question is whether a state confers legal protections to those unused embryos, experts say. And that can come down to how a law defines an "unborn human being," which the Supreme Court majority referenced when it overturned Roe.

One possible model Tipton and other IVF backers cite is Oklahoma’s strict abortion law, which prohibits the procedure from the moment of fertilization but does not apply to embryos created in vitro.

  • Louisiana is another state that's drawn attention for the way it gives personhood status to embryos but allows embryos to be discarded if they are not viable, per Governing magazine.

Between the lines: Grassroots lobbying at the state level is expected to intensify as IVF clinics are flooded with calls from concerned patients.

Of note: The fertility market is a significant economic force worth an estimated $8 billion, which could sway some post-Roe debates, UC Davis law professor Lisa Ikemoto wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

What we're watching: Whether fertility clinics develop workarounds amid the ongoing legal uncertainty.

  • Kolin Ozonian, CEO of Global Premier Fertility, told NBC that in states where abortion is outlawed, some clinics are weighing whether to move embryos to places where they can be discarded without legal questions.
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