Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Protecting women or stifling science?

Hoping to prevent something along the lines of the birth of octoplets from happening in Georgia, state legislators proposed a bill that would cap the number of embryos created for any given round of in-vitro fertilization. The new rules would limit this to two embryos per cycle for a woman 39 years old or younger and three embryos for a woman above that age. In a press release, the president of Georgia Right to Life said the bill’s purpose is to “help reduce the attendant harm that could come to the mother and her children through the creation and implantation of more embryos than is medically recommended.”

In addition to limiting the number of embryos fertilized per cycle, an article in Slate.com explained how the bill, if passed, would give embryos legal rights, thus blocking certain types of stem cell research in the state. The Georgia legislation will probably not be voted on this year, but lawmakers there will likely reconsider the issue next year.

The proposed legislation does not take past IVF failures into account, unlike the joint guidelines previously issued by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Medicine and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. So in addition to limiting biomedical research, the legislation would also promote an oversimplified approach to reproductive medicine that would likely harm more women than it would help. What do you think about the proposed bill?

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Photo by Kaibara87

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    Josh Wright said:

    Interesting, and it does sadden me. My first reaction to the description of the bill made me think, “This is good. There should be a limit to the number of embryos placed in a woman during and IVF treatment. With the publicity these octuplets have received, maybe someone else will try for nonuplets.” I also failed to see how limiting the number of embryos used would give them rights.

    Then I read the Slate article and then the actual bill. It is sneaky. I am not sure if the people who wrote it understood the rates of success for IVF. Granted, I do not, but to only have a shot at two eggs per month seems expensive in the long run, particularly if the woman is having trouble conceiving through natural means. I only wish that they would have made a bill that actually would do what this one was supposed to do rather than tacking on a bunch of other things that are not directly related.