Author Archives: Atlee Breland

How to call Oklahoma legislators

March 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Oklahoma - (2 Comments)

UPDATE: SB-1433 has passed the Public Health Committee, but we can still speak out to stop it. Please call Speaker Steele at 405-557-7345 and ask that SB-1433 not be brought to a floor vote!

The Oklahoma Legislature has just scheduled SB-1433 for a hearing in the House Public Health Committee, to be held on Tuesday, March 27th. We need every voice to speak out against this bill in order to stop it in committee.

Phone calls are an incredibly effective way to contact the committee members, and they’re really easy. It takes less than five minutes. You don’t have to be an expert debater — you’re just calling their staffer and registering your opposition. Here’s how a conversation might go:

Hi, my name is ____. I’m a _____ (Oklahoma resident/constituent of Rep. X/infertility patient) from _____ (your town), and I want to ask Rep. X to oppose SB-1433. Our doctors say this bill will threaten Oklahoma families’ access to infertility treatment and birth control, and I don’t want the government to be making my health care decisions for me.

Staffer: Great, can I have your name again and your address? We’ll pass your comments along to Rep. X. Thank you for contacting us.

That’s it! You can use that exact script, or change your comments to suit, but all you need to do is stating that you’re opposed to the bill, and providing a very brief explanation. Be polite and respectful!

The staffer will tally your response and pass that along to the representative. Even ten or fifteen phone calls can make a huge impact to a legislator. It’s the most effective thing we can do right now to stop personhood.

Please call each of the following legislators on Monday, and ask them to oppose SB-1433:

Kris Steele (House Speaker) krissteele@okhouse.gov 405-557-7345
John Enns (Chair) john.enns@okhouse.gov 405-557-7321
David Derby (Vice-Chair) david.derby@okhouse.gov 405-557-7477
Ed Cannaday ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov 405-557-7375
Doug Cox dougcox@okhouse.gov 405-557-7415
Randy Grau randy.grau@okhouse.gov 405-557-7360
Wes Hilliard weshilliard@okhouse.gov 405-557-7412
Corey Holland corey.holland@okhouse.gov 405-557-7405
Jadine Nollan jadine.nollan@okhouse.gov 405-557-7390
Ron Peters ronpeters@okhouse.gov 405-557-7359
Mike Ritze mike.ritze@okhouse.gov 405-557-7338
Sean Roberts sean.roberts@okhouse.gov 405-557-7322
Colby Schwartz colby.schwartz@okhouse.gov 405-557-7352
Jeannie McDaniel jeanniemcdaniel@okhouse.gov 405-557-7334

Oklahoma SB-1433, Missouri, and IVF

March 16th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in IVF | Legislation | Oklahoma - (1 Comments)

One argument that’s been advanced in support of Oklahoma personhood bill SB-1433 is that it’s just the same as a Missouri statute which has been found constitutional, and that the Missouri statute doesn’t stop IVF from being practiced in Missouri.

This claim is incorrect. First, the Oklahoma bill is NOT just the same as the Missouri statute, because it does not contain language recognizing the supremacy of federal constitutional law. Second, saying the Missouri statute has been found constitutional is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Supreme Court ruling at issue in Webster v Reproductive Health Services. We’ll discuss those legal issues in a separate post.

Does that Missouri statute stop IVF, though? The answer isn’t as straightforward as Sen. Crain and Rep. Billy would have you believe.

While it’s certainly true that IVF is available to patients in Missouri, it is not at all clear that it’s permitted by Missouri §1-205.

Pro-life groups’ own legal analysis indicates that this statute could potentially be used to target infertility treatment. Consider this analysis of Missouri abortion law from the General Counsel of Missouri Right to Life:

Because §1.205 applies from the moment of “conception,” it is broad enough to protect all babies who are created from in-vitro fertilization. The logic of the court decisions mentioned above would embrace a conclusion that discarding unwanted or extra IVF embryos would constitute a crime in Missouri and would leave the responsible persons liable for civil suits for wrongful death. This writer is unaware of any court cases that have tested these conclusions in Missouri.

Does this statute apply only to deliberate embryo disposition? Certainly not. In State v Knapp, the Missouri Supreme Court found that the definition of personhood in §1-205 applied to the state’s involuntary manslaughter law, §565-204. That statute specifically provides for criminal charges for unintentional but foreseeable deaths; under the legal standard of recklessness, embryo cryopreservation would certainly meet that standard.

What Missouri Right to Life is saying here is that Missouri law doesn’t protect IVF. Physicians could, at any time, be slapped with criminal charges or civil suits for simply practicing IVF according to the medical standards of care. An overzealous Missouri prosecutor could file such charges tomorrow.

If SB-1433 becomes law, Oklahoma prosecutors can do the same thing. They will have the legal authority to make criminals of infertility physicians, simply for treating their patients and helping them build families. In fact, they’ll have a legal duty to do so — after all, officers of the court take an oath to uphold and defend the state’s laws.

No, Missouri hasn’t yet exercised that power. But are you really prepared to trust that the Oklahoma government won’t use it? Do you want to hand them that kind of control over your medical treatment?

Oklahoma doctors aren’t. The physicians who actually treat Oklahoma infertility patients are united in opposing SB-1433, because they fear the threat of criminal and civil prosecution. National medical associations like ACOG and ASRM and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Organization agree.

Once again, do you trust doctors who understand the medical issues, or do you trust politicians and interest groups who are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their agendas?

Statement on Mississippi HB-1196

March 15th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi - (Comments Off)

Yesterday evening, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB-1196, sponsored by Rep. Andy Gipson. We’ve had a lot of questions, from both the public and the media, about our position on this bill.

First and most importantly, Parents Against Personhood does not oppose the larger goal of this bill. We do not support it either, because we are neutral on questions of elective abortion.

HB-1196 is primarily a ban on abortion. It bans all abortions after a heartbeat is detectable, which happens roughly two weeks after you miss your period. It will effectively end abortion in Mississippi, but it does contain exceptions for life-threatening pregnancy complications. It also imposes a mandatory ultrasound requirement. It does not contain exceptions for rape and incest.

We limit our concerns to one specific clause: the portion of the bill which defines the “unborn human individual” as beginning at fertilization.

We’re aware that the presence of this clause means that HB-1196 is already being widely viewed as a personhood bill. We are alert for any possible attempt to create “back-door personhood”, and oppose all legislative efforts to circumvent the decisive defeat of Initiative 26 and impose personhood on Mississippi.

Our concern is whether putting this language into the law creates legal precedent for courts or future legislation to declare that personhood exists in Mississippi law. Indeed, courts in other states have cited similar legislation in personhood-related rulings.

We want to be very clear that our questions are limited to this one clause, and that we do not oppose the heartbeat bill. We do oppose language which defines personhood as beginning at fertilization. We will be carefully examining this clause to determine whether courts could potentially interpret it to create personhoood.

Again, we do not support or oppose this bill’s intentions, or the majority of its language. We do express our reservations about this specific clause, and the way in which it could be used in other contexts.

We encourage you to support or oppose the goals of HB-1196 and similar legislation as your own conscience dictates.

Today, Personhood USA launched what they’re calling “a major media blitz” in support of Oklahoma SB-1433:

Personhood USA began a massive media campaign on Tuesday in support of the Oklahoma Personhood Act. The pro-life organization has announced that they will run both a 30 second and a 60 second radio spot and a television ad

Let’s do something unusual: let’s talk about how much all that media coverage costs. Now, I’m not a campaign expert, but I have bought campaign ads here in Mississippi, and I have contacted media outlets in Oklahoma to get pricing.

If they’re following standard ad-frequency practices, Personhood USA is spending somewhere well north of $50,000 on that media coverage.

Fifty thousand dollars. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money. And let’s not forget that they’ve already spent tens of thousands of dollars on two separate rounds of statewide robo-calls.

Why would an out-of-state political organization spend close to $100,000 on campaigning for an Oklahoma “foundational principle”? If they’re spending that kind of PAC money, it’s because they expect SB-1433 to achieve their political goals.

Personhood USA spent $1 million in Mississippi last fall on the failed attempt to pass personhood. Now they’re bringing their money to Oklahoma, to try to buy the legislative result they haven’t been able to get anywhere else.

But Personhood USA won’t be around to live with the unintended consequences. If SB-1433 passes, Oklahoma families will be the ones paying the price.

They do not speak for me

March 12th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in IVF | Media - (2 Comments)

My own history as an infertility patient is publicly documented, but I don’t usually choose to make it the primary focus of this site. After last week’s Personhood Mississippi press conference, though, I want to get personal here for a little bit.

Because I like to hear people’s statements for myself, I went to that press conference to listen to the Women for Personhood. I left it angry, very angry, and that has only intensified with a few days’ distance. This week’s Jackson Free Press goes right to the core of it:

Sigrest said women who oppose personhood do not speak for all women. “We are the women for personhood, and we want to share our side with you,” she said…. “Abortion is war on women,” [Anne Reed] told the JFP after the press conference. “… Abortion damages a woman in every way–physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually–in every way.”

I am now six years past the day when I held a pregnancy test in shaking hands, blinking through sudden tears to make sure I wasn’t imagining that second line. I write this with my three children clustered on the sofa next to me, and I will never go through infertility again. I have mostly worked through the emotional fallout of this complex failure of simple biology. I am a recovered infertile.

But I haven’t forgotten. Neither has my husband. We are so grateful for what we have, and so aware that we were lucky where others weren’t. Why us, and not so many others? We’ll never know.

I don’t presume to speak for Ashley Sigrest, or Anne Reed, or any of the other women on those steps last week. I never have. The only person I speak for is myself, and here is what I have to say:

You do not get to tell me whether I can become a mother.

Make no mistake: that is exactly what’s at issue here. As our FAQ discusses at length, IVF simply isn’t compatible with personhood. Oh, they may say they’re not anti-IVF, but their legislation, and their campaign literature, and their media statements tell the full story.

Thursday afternoon, one of these Women for Personhood told me, “You know, you don’t have a RIGHT to do IVF.”

Her words made me incandescently angry, but she is technically correct: there is no constitutional right to pursue infertility treatment. There is no Constitutional or legal protection for women and men who simply want to become parents, but who need a doctor’s help to get there.

Remember that, when personhood advocates tell you that their bills won’t override Supreme Court decisions. There are no Supreme Court decisions specifically protecting your access to IVF.

If you are an infertility patient, your only legal protection is that you have privacy rights to undergo any sort of medical treatment you like, as long as it doesn’t violate other people’s rights. Add in embryonic personhood, and everything changes.

Every single national medical organization involved in infertility treatment understands that personhood will effectively end IVF — ACOG, ASRM, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, and every reproductive endocrinologist in the country. Ask the Oklahoma medical community, or the Mississippi doctors who fought Initiative 26 in 2011.

No “loophole” or “exception” can erase that fundamental conflict. Anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t understand the medical facts — or they are hoping that YOU don’t.

But infertility patients like me do, because we’ve learned the calculus of heartbreak: 21 eggs become 2 embryos become no baby. Or, if we land on the slender side of the probabilities, six eggs become two brown-haired daughters.

So no, I don’t speak for those Women for Personhood.

But I will not let them speak for me.

New Mississippi initiative petition announced

March 9th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi - (Comments Off)

Yesterday, Personhood Mississippi held a press conference to announce their plans to file another personhood ballot initiative for 2013 or 2014.

Personhood Mississippi president Les Riley stated that attorney Stephen Crampton, author of the failed 2011 Initiative 26, will be working to draft the new language. The language has not currently been finalized or filed with the Secretary of State, so the new initiative has not yet begun its path to the ballot.

The deadline to appear on the 2012 ballot has passed, and it is somewhat unlikely that the measure will qualify for 2013. Failed initiatives cannot reappear on the ballot for two years, and Election Day 2013 falls slightly before the two-year threshold date. Unless the Attorney General judges that the measure differs substantially from Initiative 26, it will not be allowed on the 2013 ballot.

After the final certification of the ballot language, which takes roughly a month or more from the initial filing date, supporters have one year to gather about 98,100 signatures. Those signatures must be submitted before the start of the legislative session in the year of the election — a further barrier to a 2013 election, since this shortens their signature-gathering period by several months. Again, a 2014 ballot appearance looks more likely.

Regardless of the year, we urge Mississippians NOT to sign any such initiative petition, and not to put our state through another divisive campaign for a measure which will hurt women’s and families’ access to contraception, infertility treatment, and pregnancy care.

Mississippi personhood presumed dead for 2012!

March 6th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi - (4 Comments)

The Mississippi Legislature’s committee deadline was this afternoon, meaning that any personhood bills had to be passed by their committee of origin.

We have been tracking four separate proposed personhood bills (HC-61, HC-80, SC-555, and SC-574), as well as three anti-ART bills. As of this afternoon, all seven of those bills are officially dead, and will not proceed further.

Barring extreme legislative dirty tricks, Mississippi personhood is done for 2012. There will be no legislatively-referred amendment on our November ballot.

To our representatives and senators: THANK YOU for respecting the will of the voters. THANK YOU for understanding the consequences of personhood for women and families. THANK YOU for choosing not to push personhood through in 2012!

Take Action: Mississippi HC-80

March 5th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi - (2 Comments)

Mississippi’s HC-80, one of the four personhood bills currently in the Legislature, was discussed in the House Constitution Committee on Friday. It could come up for a committee vote either Monday or Tuesday, and be passed through to the House floor for a full vote.

It’s time to take action, NOW! Let’s tell the Constitution Committee that we oppose HC-80, and all of the other personhood bills. Ask them to oppose personhood, and not to put the bill through committee this week.

To contact all the members of the Constitution Committee, please use our new Action Alert system:

Send an email to all Constitution Committee members.

Author of Mississippi personhood bills reveals IVF intentions

March 5th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation | Mississippi - (Comments Off)

Mississippi Rep. Andy Gipson is sponsoring not one but two personhood bills in the Legislature this year: HC-61 and HC-80.

Both bills claim to have exemptions to protect IVF and birth control, and Rep. Gipson has stated publicly that he has no intention of preventing families from using IVF. However, Rep. Gipson’s other sponsored legislation tells a different story.

This session, Rep. Gipson is sponsoring HB-1114, which calls itself the “Embryo Adoption and Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act”. This bill requires that doctors attempt to fertilize no more than two eggs, a measure which would effectively end IVF in Mississippi.

HB-1114 would prevent doctors from cryopreserving embryos for future cycles, because of the substantial risk of damage to the embryo from the cryopresevation process. Not only would that dramatically affect success rates, but it also threatens IVF patients’ health.

Mississippi doctors cannot continue to offer IVF to patients under the restrictions imposed by HB-1114. Families will be forced to seek medical treatment in other states or even other countries.

The doctors, nurses, and medical organizations who treat infertility, and who understand the medical issues involved, know that personhood raises grave concerns for their ability to practice medicine. They know that bills like HB-1114 would prevent them from helping patients build their families through medical treatment.

When you hear that bills like HC-80 “wouldn’t stop IVF”, ask yourself if you know the whole story. Ask yourself if those bills might still impose incredibly severe restrictions that would prevent doctors from treating infertility according to the current medical standards of care. And ask any infertility specialist whether he or she would be able to practice medicine in the face of these laws.

IUDs: over 2 million women, many unanswered questions

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Birth Control | Legislation - (25 Comments)

According to a NY Times article on IUDs, IUDs have become dramatically more popular in recent years:

The number of women in America now using an IUD has more than tripled since 2002. In the 12 months ending in August 2011, IUDs accounted for 10.4 percent of contraceptives issued by doctors, up from just 1.7 percent in the 12 months ending August 2002, according to data from SDI Health, a health care research firm.

As of 2008, over 2 million American women use IUDs for contraception. They are safe and extremely effective, because they don’t require any day-to-day effort to use correctly. However, under personhood, IUDs would almost certainly be prohibited under personhood, because of the legitimate potential to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

Medical evidence suggests that women with IUDs experience between 0.2 and 1.8 post-fertilization losses per year, according to a 2002 paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (That would be between 420,000 and 3,780,000 embryonic “deaths” per year, which is a large number in comparison to the 1.2 million annual elective abortions.)

If we consider that human life and human rights begins at fertilization, IUDs clearly kill a lot of embryonic people. So what happens under personhood to these 2 million women with IUDs?

If personhood prohibits contraception with post-fertilization effects, logically it should also prohibit it for users who have IUDs already in place. After all, we wouldn’t pass personhood and then say that women could have abortions for five more years, so long as they promise to stop at the end.

If you believe that an embryo is a human person with full legal rights at the time of conception, there’s no other choice but to accept that women with IUDs are every bit as much murderers as women who have abortions or women who kill their newborns. After all, if we’re talking about human lives here, surely that takes precedence over the woman’s right to privacy and to continue using the birth control of her choice, whether we’re talking about IUDs or emergency contraception or abortion.

Will women with IUDs in Oklahoma and Mississippi be forced under the threat of legal penalty to have their IUDs removed?

IUDs are just one of the many unanswered questions and potentially frightening implications of personhood legislation.