Paul Ryan and Personhood – what’s at risk

We’ve heard some interesting commentary this week in regards to Mitt Romney’s recent choice for running mate. Paul Ryan’s views on taxes, Medicare and women’s health rights are making plenty of news, but we in the family building arena are particularly interested by his cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act – commonly known as Personhood.
Simply put, Ryan seems to believe that a fertilized egg has more rights than a woman. And that strange, misguided belief that a fertilized egg is the same thing as a person could have dire consequences for Assisted Reproductive Technology. If passed, the Act would make even one-celled embryos “people” – and if not used immediately through IVF or frozen, they would then be considered victims under the law.

The interesting twist in the Romney-Ryan pairing, of course, is the fact that two of Romney’s children have used IVF – one even working with a surrogate – to build their families. Per Ryan’s stance, this could qualify them as criminals under the Personhood statutes.

Mother Jones had a compelling piece about this fact yesterday, but some commentators are crying foul: today’s piece in the National Post calls the related articles “distortion” and “balderdash,” saying that there is “no evidence that he believes in criminalizing in vitro fertilization, and efforts to imply otherwise in order to create a neat little conflict (oooh, Romney’s runningmate would put Romney’s kids is prison if he could!) are misleading and irresponsible.”

If this truly were the case, we would agree. But under the Sanctity of Human Life Act, one endorsed by Ryan, any extra embryos that were fertilized by not implanted cannot be destroyed or used for research. And the fact is, we don’t know if the Romneys had extra embryos. We don’t know what they chose to do with them. Perhaps more importantly – it is no one else’s business period.

It’s true that Personhood would not completely outlaw IVF. At least not yet. But this gross invasion of privacy when it comes to reproductive rights is beyond disturbing, and for a family that has experienced the struggle of infertility – like the Romneys – it’s a pretty contradictory and poorly thought through decision. No distortion here – November’s vote could significantly undermine the rights of not just women, but anyone with the desire to have a family with the help of technology after all other efforts have failed them.

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