Hard cases make bad law, and Nadya Suleman, the so-called Octo-Mom, is the current embodiment of that aphorism. The backlash against Suleman has fueled the anti-women’s rights movement to draft up legislation restricting women’s fertility options, particularly Georgia Senate Bill 169 which was favorably referred to the full Senate yesterday by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
Octo-Mom Nadya Suleman’s controversial decision to have 6 embryos implanted at one time through in vitro fertilization, a decision which led to the birth of the first surviving set of octuplets, sparked nationwide outrage. The press depicted Nadya Suleman, aka the Octo-Mom, as irresponsible. She was not a childless woman longing for a baby or even a parent of one or two children hoping to create a typical size family. Nadya Suleman has been widely reviled because she had 6 children ages 7 and under yet chose to have 6 embryos implanted at once- at a time when she was unmarried, unemployed, dependent on her parents and public assistance for support, and already overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for 6 young children.
Anti-Women’s Forces Rally Around Anti-Octo-Mom Sentiment
With an angry public railing that they should not be forced to support the families of women such as Nadya Suleman (never mind that the number of such women is 1), anti women’s rights groups saw their opportunity. In Georgia, the Georgia Right to Life group got out its pens and drafted part of the anti-Octo-Mom bill now pending before that state legislature.
The amended Georgia Senate Bill 169 has shed the trappings of its anti-Octo-Mom beginnings and now stands naked as anti-women’s rights and anti-abortion movement legislation without the artifice of protecting maternal or child health during pregnancy and childbirth. The bill defines an embryo as a human being entitled to protection from the “single-celled” stage forward. An embryo could not be considered property, and rights to an embryo could not be transferred through any agreement, such as a divorce settlement, under Georgia’s anti-Octo-Mom bill. Any litigation concerning the embryo would be subject to a mirror version of the standard applied to children in family court. Instead of “best interests of the child,” the standard would be “best interests of the embryo.”
Intentional destruction of an embryo would be illegal under the pending Georgia law.
This proposed law would not stop an Octo-Mom; what it would do is deny women legal rights with respect to the disposition of embryos created with their ova. Were a woman to decide against implantation, presumably any woman on the planet could step in and demand that the “extra” embryos be implanted into herself. The courts would decide the “best interests of the embryo” without regard to the wishes of the woman who had the embryos created.
The likelihood of this law passing constitutional muster is nil.
Original Georgia Anti-Octo-Mom Legislation More Restrictive
An earlier, more restrictive -and also unquestionably unconstitutional- version of the Georgia legislation would have more directly regulated fertility procedures ostensibly to preserve maternal and child health. That original bill would have restricted the number of embryos implanted to two for women under 40 using embryos created with their own ova, 3 for older women using embryos created with their own ova, and 2 for any woman using donor embryos or ova.
The original version of the law limited the number of embryos created in a single cycle to the number to be transferred in that cycle; this would have appeared to eliminate any future cryo-preservation, denying women seeking to save embryos for future implantation- whether for medical reasons such as cancer treatment or convenience- the right to do so. The law also impliedly required all embryos created in a single cycle to be implanted regardless of their prospects for development.
The law as originally proposed did permit implantation of previously preserved embryos.
One of the co-sponsors of the Georgia bill in its original form, Republican state senator Ralph T. Hudgens, explained to the Wall Street Journal, “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.”
Sound like he’s worried about maternal or child health?
Missouri Proposes Anti-Octo-Mom Law
Missouri also has legislation pending to restrict implantation of embryos through IVF. The proposed Missouri law would require clinics to follow guidelines recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Those guidelines, if enacted into law, would permit 2 to 3 embryos to be implanted in younger women such as the Octo-Mom, Nadya Suleman. Women older than 40 could be implanted with 5 embryos.
Sources: http://www.stjoenews.net/news/2009/mar/05/octo-mom-bill-seems-sensible/?opinion; http://voices.kansascity.com/node/3930; http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090305/octomom_bills_090305/20090305?hub=Health; http://www.newser.com/story/52253/georgia-bill-would-make-implanted-octuplets-a-crime.html; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123603828823714509.html; http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/fulltext/sb169.htm; http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/versions/sb169_As_introduced_LC_37_0857_2.htm.