The U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade in June kicked off a discussion about when life begins, sparking fears from the IVF community.
In Tennessee, which has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, those fears prompted the state's Attorney General to put out an opinion in October that says disposal of fertilized human embryos that have not been transferred to a woman's uterus is not against the law and does not qualify as an abortion.
The opinion came after Tennessee resident Sara Chambers published a video that went viral on TikTok showing the conversation she had with her state representative over the disposal of human embryos.
"Actually, in the response I received from my State Representative, he said the law is moot to IVF, but then he moved to say that the discarding of embryos is separate, and they do see that unborn child as a life, even though the fertilization happens outside of the womb, so discarding those embryos is in violation of the law,” said Chambers.
It wasn't until later that she found out it wouldn't be in violation of the law. That State Representative later apologized.
"Like I want to say that I feel better knowing that IVF is not going to be attacked by this new law, but I don't feel better at all,” said Chambers.
While laws may not explicitly link IVF and abortion, groups that support abortion rights worry that new legislation might as the definition of personhood evolves legally.
Executives for Americans United for Life, an anti-choice group, have criticized IVF in testimony before state panels. The 50-year-old Washington-based group, describes what it calls "human embryo-destroying IVF treatments" as unethical.
"Resolve: The National Infertility Association" is launching a campaign called "Fight For Families" in anticipation of laws being introduced that could potentially impact IVF.
Barbara Collura – the President and CEO of Resolve – says the campaign will share stories of patients who have used IVF or need IVF to grow their families so that access to IVF remains legal and available.
“When legislators start hearing from their constituents that this is a big deal, that there are a lot of people who need IVF, there are a lot of people who might need this access to care,” said Collura. “And if you're going to try and restrict it, you're preventing me from having a baby. You're preventing me from building my family. That's a very powerful message for a legislator to hear. And we know it does change minds.”
Infertility treatment advocates, like Collura, worry fetal personhood laws, would make it very difficult to do IVF because they grant embryos and fetuses the same rights as those already born.
“If you are conferring the rights to an embryo as if they are a living human being, meaning they are a person. Can you freeze a person? Can you do genetic testing on a person? What if somebody chose to discard their embryos? Would that be murder? We don't know,” said Collura. “What we believe is that if an embryo is a person, it will be very, very difficult to do IVF to the standard of care that is needed and that results in the best outcomes.”
Collura says they are going to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any proposed bills that may be introduced. In Tennessee, lawmakers go back the second week of January.