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Assisted Reproduction

Have A Miscarriage, Go To Jail

This is not a version of Pregnancy Monopoly, but rather a not so far-fetched scenario that could occur in Tennessee if its embryo bill is signed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam. Under this bill, which was approved 28-2 by the Tennessee Senate, the state’s murder and assault laws will now apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy. Udom Umoh of the National Political Buzz Examiner takes a closer look at this legislation:

The bill, as introduced by Rep. Joshua Evens of Robertson County and a host of co-sponors, states that any act which results in the harm of an embryo—at any state of gestation in utero—can and will be made criminal under state law. Though this falls under criminal offenses, it is clear that abortion and the rights of a fetus are looming in the foreground.

The inclusion of all stages of gestation poses a scientific question of personhood—an ongoing, highly controversial subject in regards to abortion. Before delving into the problematic points at which a person can be tried for harming an impregnated woman, the definition of an embryo must be considered. Currently, there are two broad definitions for the biological definitions of what should be called ‘human embryos:’

1. An embryo is considered just that, from the moment of creation, e.g. fertilization to the eighth week, at which point it is then considered a fetus.

2. An embryo is considered just that, only after gastrulation, by which the cells that give rise to the future human being can be distinguished from those that only form embryonic tissue. Meaning, the first few weeks after fertilization is identified as the development leading to the generation of an embryo.

Here, two problems arise within the definition of a human embryo. An arbitrary development time is applied to that which gives way to an embryo’s development, but does that time fall under criminal offenses? Secondly, definitions of such embryos, as created immediately after fertilization, will broaden the scope under which a person could be charged for murder of an embryo. It is clear that this bill poses an array of problems in regards to its actual reason for being. For more on an embryo’s definitions, read this.

While Tennessee’s lawmakers assert the bill’s intent to only correct the present law of a fetus’s inclusion under criminal offenses, the bill’s language, through which understanding originates, is vastly broad, poorly-written, and poorly-derived. Without a concise definition of a human embryo, a multitude of situations will fall under acts deemed as criminal offenses.

Consider the first definition of an embryo as created in the moment of fertilization: females who use morning-after pills will be subjected to penalization—whether the pill prevents fertilization from occurring or disrupts the fertilized egg so as not to be implanted. Even in the consideration of the second definition: females, who have accidents, thus resulting in miscarriages, will be subjected to penalization. Those who cause such accidents that result in miscarriages will be subjected to criminal offenses as well. The point here is the general misunderstandings that come with such poorly, thought-out bills.

Though lawmakers strive to create laws of virtue and magnanimity, their failure to write in a concise and effective language poses a danger of unforeseen circumstances. The inevitable result of the ‘Embryo bill,’ without revision, will augment the former attacks on females’ constitutional rights and their moral conscience. This bill is one of subjective opinions that beseeches its creators to seek another way to protect the unborn. If this is to be a representative democracy, then our fellow lawmakers must represent us, in all our best interests, not theirs. Protect our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and future bearers. Let us not be wholly irresponsible in the face of judicial powers. If we are all of high-mind and compassion, I beseech you: do not trifle with the rights of our citizens.


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