Louisiana lawmakers move IVF protection bill forward, but doctors still might be vulnerable

microscopic view of in-vitro fertilization
microscopic view of in-vitro fertilization
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Louisiana lawmakers are moving a bill to protect in vitro fertilization services in the wake of Louisiana's abortion ban. (Canva image)

Louisiana lawmakers continue to move forward a bill to keep in vitro fertilization (IVF) services available, but they haven’t been willing to make all the changes necessary to fully protect doctors from prosecution, according to a fertility law expert. 

The Louisiana Senate Committee on Judiciary A voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve House Bill 833, sponsored by Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, to protect IVF. But the committee members refused to remove a description of an embryo created through IVF as a “biological human being” from state law. 

Baton Rouge attorney Katie Bliss, who specializes in fertility law, said she is “very concerned” embryos would continue to be described as “human beings” in statute if the bill passed in its current form.

Murder and other crimes are characterized as the killing and hurting of “human beings” in the law, which could become a problem for doctors and other medical providers, Bliss said in an interview. 

Even though it approved the legislation, the committee rejected an amendment to the bill offered by Davis and Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, that would have removed the reference to a “fertilized human ovum” as a “biological human being.” 

“For many of us, an embryo is a life,” said Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, a Christian pastor who voted against the legislation. 

The swing vote was Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, a conservative Christian who voted in favor of the overall legislation, but against the amendment that would have removed the “human being” language to describe an embryo.

“A lot of the terms are very sanitized,” said Mizell when debating the failed amendment “It kind of takes the maternal thinking … out of it.”

Physicians who specialize in fertility are trying to insulate themselves and their staff from criminal prosecution for performing IVF after the Alabama Supreme Court temporarily shut down IVF in that state by equating embryos to children in a wrongful death case.

Abortion rights advocates warned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could threaten IVF treatment, particularly in states such as Louisiana with strict abortion bans and laws that declare life begins at conception. Some anti-abortion advocates also oppose IVF because they consider embryos to be the equivalent of human beings, and embryos can be destroyed during the IVF process.

“The point of this, the point of the [Louisiana law] update, is to try to provide protection to the physicians and all of our staff,” said Nicole Urlich, a physician who works at Audubon Fertility in New Orleans, during Tuesday’s hearing on the bill.

In Alabama, state lawmakers worked quickly to pass a law to protect IVF in the wake over public outcry over their Supreme Court ruling, but critics believe their fix didn’t go far enough to shield doctors from criminal liabilities in the future. 

The Texas Supreme Court is considering taking up a case that deals with whether embryos will be treated as human beings or more like communal property under the law. It could potentially imperil IVF services in that state. 

“It really opened us up to much more sort of liability,” Urlich told lawmakers. “It just makes it much more difficult to practice [in Louisiana].” 

Legislators who supported the Davis’ bill include Luneau, Mizell and Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans. Legislators who were opposed included Sens. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, and Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops and Christian Louisiana Family Forum have lobbied against Davis’ proposal. Most notably, the state’s most prominent anti-abortion organization, Louisiana Right to Life, has remained neutral on the bill.

The bill has already passed the Louisiana House and now awaits a full vote of the Louisiana Senate. Republican Gov. Jeff Landry has not been willing to say where he stands on the legislation.

The post Louisiana lawmakers move IVF protection bill forward, but doctors still might be vulnerable appeared first on Louisiana Illuminator.