According to Greek mythology, Pandora (meaning “all-gifted”) was the first woman on earth. As the story goes, Zeus, upset with the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus for having stolen fire from heaven and giving it to mankind, ordered Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her out of clay. The gods then endowed her with many talents; Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo music, Hermes persuasion and deceit, and so on. Zeus then took his vengeance by presenting Pandora to Epimetheus. With her, Pandora had a box containing every human woe, given to her by Zeus, which she was instructed not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the box resulting in evil being spread over the earth. While she quickly closed the lid, it was too late as the contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing which lay at the bottom…and that was Hope.
In many respects, we are living through a modern day version of this myth, thanks to Michael Kamrava and Nadya Suleman. As a result of Kamrava’s willful disregard of ASRM guidelines and the resulting octuplet delivery, we are seeing legislatures across the country scrambling to limit the use of IVF. From California to Georgia, lawmakers are tripping over themselves to use this controversy to justify restrictions on our reproductive liberties.
The Georgia legislation is particularly odious as it not only replaces a physician’s judgment with that of an assembly of lawmakers, but also is a veiled attempt to restrict abortions. Contained within the bill, entitled “Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act”, is the language that that “a living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity.” Not only would this language impact the legality of abortion, but would give rise to chaos within the fertility industry as who would have the right to dictate the disposition of the embryos once they are created? If the patient no longer has the right to control their own embryos, who does? Will Georgia require that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed for every IVF treatment to decide how those embryos can be used, stored and disposed of? This is insanity.
While some of the legislation might be well-intended, the unintended (or in the case of Georgia, the intended) consequences will be catastrophic for individuals and couples trying to start their families. If we give state governments the right to limit the number of embryos a fertility patient could have transferred, could not the same rational be used to limit the number of children a family could have? Many have mocked China’s one-child policy, but is the Georgia legislation really that much different? Many have legitimately raised the issue of the propriety of California having to financially support Suleman’s children. If we allow our lawmakers to proscribe the number of embryos that can be transferred, why shouldn’t the government also be able to establish means testing before allowing anyone to have a child?
I concede that the OctoMom situation raises a host of concerns. However, it is an aberrational case and one that does not justify a massive rollback of our reproductive liberties. Kamrava should be subject to punitive measures for his behavior and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the Medical Board of California are the best equipped to deal with these kind of issues. The efforts we are seeing in California, Missouri and Georgia are only the tip of the iceberg as lawmakers with dubious motives seek to exploit this situation to advance an ulterior agenda. Quite frankly, the legislation being proposed by “conservatives” has little to do with the octuplet case and everything to do with their discomfort at any form of procreation outside of the bedroom between a married couple.
Reasonable regulations, narrowly tailored to protect the best interests of patients and children, are appropriate. Imposing arbitrary caps on the number of embryos a physician can transfer is the first step down a very slippery slope that will eliminate any hope millions of couples are clinging to in order to start their families.