In our previous post, we stated that the latest language change to SB-2771 has the potential to impact IVF, birth control, and medical care for pregnancy complications.
We have already received responses from the bill’s author, Rep. Andy Gipson, and from pro-life lobbyist Terri Herring stating that the bill “refers to a homicide law that has been on the books for years”. Rep. Gipson posted the following to our Parents Against Personhood Facebook page:
You do understand that when you oppose SB 2771, you are opposing current Mississippi law. Current law provides the definition of “human being” and “unborn child” at Section 97-3-37(1) relating to killing of unborn children: the same definition we used to define “child” under the new child homicide bill: “(1) For purposes of the offenses enumerated in this subsection (1), the term “human being” includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth and the term “unborn child” means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Want to make sure your followers understand this reality. If the current law doesn’t stop IVF, how could this? We’re only trying to stop abortion in Mississippi.
The current version of SB-2771 states that a person is found guilty of child homicide when manslaughter of a child occurs “in circumstances where the killing, although without malice, was intentional and not accidental”. The bill states that it uses the definition of child homicide found in §93-3-37 of the Mississippi Code, which includes “unborn children” from conception on.
Rep. Gipson’s bill goes on to state that child homicide does NOT apply to abortions where there is no detectable heartbeat, when rape has occurred, or when it is “medically necessary to prevent the death of the mother”.
The original wrongful death statute states that manslaughter does not apply to lawful medical procedures, including legal abortion. Were it not for the medical exemption, it’s very clear that §93-3-37 would criminalize IVF. Parts of the IVF process, such as embryo cryopreservation, are clearly manslaughter if performed on people. They are done without malice, but the known substantial risk of embryo loss means that they meet the legal definition of intention. We could avoid the embryo loss by choosing not to do cryopreservation; when we proceed with it anyway, it’s a deliberate act which would rise to the level of manslaughter.
SB-2771 says that the crime of child homicide applies when a person is found guilty of manslaughter of an embryo, fetus, or child, unless it is an abortion done under the specified exemptions of no heartbeat, rape, or medical necessity. However, you can’t currently be found guilty of manslaughter for performing an abortion on a first-trimester embryo with a heartbeat, because first trimester abortion is legal in Mississippi for any reason.
Therefore, one of two things MUST be true: either Rep. Gipson’s bill will not prevent abortion on embryos with heartbeats, or the medical exemption of §93-3-37 is no longer valid.
The medical exemption of §93-3-37 is all that protects IVF and contraception from being considered manslaughter. If SB-2771 criminalizes legal abortions for embryos with heartbeats, it must logically override the medical exemption, thereby threatening IVF and contraception. SB-2771 therefore creates a circular reasoning: a lawful medical procedure is one which does not result in the death of an embryo or fetus, except under the specific circumstances outlined in the bill.
IVF is not protected by any of the exemptions listed in SB-2771. Embryo disposition and cryopreservation are not considered abortion under Mississippi law, because our abortion statute makes specific reference to a “woman pregnant with child”. Since clinical pregnancy has not yet begun while the embryos are still in the lab, they don’t fall into the category of “a legal abortion where there is no detectable heartbeat”. They likewise are not the product of alleged rape or incest, and there is no medical necessity.
The same logic holds true for contraception, and drugs like Clomid, which can potentially prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In fact, the previous heartbeat language offered more explicit protection for contraception and medical complications of pregnancy. Contraception has been removed from this version of the bill, and the medical exception has been tightened to no longer include “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman”. In our view, the current langauge is inadequate to protect the lives and physical health of women suffering from pregnancy complications.
If an abortion of an embryo with a heartbeat is to be considered manslaughter, then so must any other injury or destruction of a fertilized egg. SB-2771 states that the provisions of child homicide shall not apply to the situations of subsection 2 (d), and the logical corollary is that child homicide SHALL apply to all other situations.
While that may not be Rep. Gipson’s intent, the law means what the law says. The ART law experts we have consulted believe that SB-2771 could potentially be used to prosecute doctors for performing IVF procedures which result in the loss of embryos. That’s what makes this personhood — the original language of §93-3-37, combined with the removal of the medical exemption, establishes that embryos and fetuses are protected by the law as people.
Again, we did NOT believe that previous heartbeat language could be used against IVF and contraception, and we felt that the medical exception was adequate to protect women’s lives and health. We view the new language as unacceptably broad, and fear that its effects will be felt in all aspects of women’s reproductive health care.