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After a conspicuous absence during the years when they controlled Congress and had an anti-abortion President in the White House, Republicans in both houses have proposed three bills similar in effect to the Human Life Amendment. The bills are:

HR 881 – Right to Life Act

S 346 – Life at Conception Act

HR 227 – Sanctity of Human Life Act

Here is the text of HR 881. The other bills are slightly different, but get at the same ideas:




    To implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person, and pursuant to the duty and authority of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Congress hereby declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being. However, nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.


For purposes of this Act:

(1) HUMAN PERSON; HUMAN BEING- The terms ‘human person’ and ‘human being’ include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

(2) STATE- The term ‘State’ used in the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States and other applicable provisions of the Constitution includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and each other territory or possession of the United States.

I’m wondering if the backers of these acts have fully thought through the consequences. Perhaps they have and that’s why they are being introduced in a hostile Congress.

One consequence I’d actually support but suspect many Americans would rail against is that the In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) industry would be shut down in this country, possibly along with the use of fertility drugs.

Why? Because according to the National Institutes of Health, IVF requires the production of more than one embryo for each child conceived by this procedure:

Step 5: Embryo transfer

Embryos are placed into the woman’s womb 3 – 5 days after egg retrieval and fertilization. The procedure is done in the doctor’s office while the woman is awake. The doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) containing the embryos into the woman’s vagina, through the cervix, and up into the womb. If an embryo sticks to (implants) in the lining of the womb and grows, pregnancy results.

More than one embryo may be placed into the womb at the same time, which can lead to twins, triplets, or more. The exact number of embryos transferred is a complex issue that depends on many factors, especially the woman’s age. Unused embryos may be frozen and implanted or donated at a later date.

But if some variant of the Human Life Act is passed and found constitutional, then each of these so-called spare embryos would have the same protection as a grown adult. What would equal protection under law demand? Not discarding multiple embryos, that’s for sure. It seems likely to me that courts would halt IVF clinics because they could not operate without destroying human beings as defined by the Human Life Act.

A similar argument can be made for fertility drugs. They also all but require the creation of multiple embryos.  In many cases, women who might wind up with six or seven embryos as a result of fertility drugs choose to have “selective abortions” to get the number of children in the womb down to a natural range. This option would be off the table if the Human Life Act passes. Having six to eight children often involves dire complications. So what would the reaction of the courts be? Quite possibly to ban procedures almost certain to result in damaged children.

I am one half of an infertile couple. I am ok with the above techniques going away. My wife and I would never consider them. I think IVF and fertility drugs make children into purchasable commodities. But IVF and fertility drugs are dear to many Americans. They should understand what they’re giving up before urging passage of any of the three bills listed above.

While you’re mulling over the consequences of the various Human Life Acts, why not support one of the variants of the Pregnant Women Support Act? Isn’t it a no-brainer to directly support pregnant mothers and their children?


Wikipedia, Human Life Amendment – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Life_Amendment

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia (IVF) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007279.htm

PATIENT FACT SHEET: Fertility Drugs and the Risk of Multiple Births

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