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Romney's running mate generates media storm over positions on 'personhood' and IVF

20 August 2012
Appeared in BioNews 669

Views held by Paul Ryan – the man chosen by US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to be his running mate – that life begins at fertilisation have caused a media furore in North America.

Ryan is a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which has been reintroduced to the House of Representatives and that states 'human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilisation'.

Under the proposed law, embryos discarded during IVF would become 'murder victims', commented US political magazine Mother Jones. The magazine said, if it became law, the Act 'would make Romney's kids criminals' since three of them have relied on IVF treatment in order to become parents.

During IVF multiple embryos are often created that may not all be implanted during one cycle of treatment. These 'spare' embryos can either be frozen and stored for future use, used by other prospective parents, used in research, or destroyed.

If passed, the Sanctity of Human Life Act would 'criminalise IVF', said The Daily Beast, a US news and opinion website – something which Amy Goodman in the Guardian reflected on: 'As reported in Mother Jones, this law would make normal IVF practices illegal', she said.

However, other journalists are calling much of the attention 'bad reporting', claiming that the media has distorted Ryan's Act. There is no evidence that Ryan believes in criminalising IVF and that 'efforts to imply otherwise in order to create a neat little conflict... are misleading and irresponsible', Marni Soupcoff said in the Canadian National Post.

Soupcoff suggests that while the Sanctity of Life Act undoubtedly attempts to grant full human rights to fetuses as well as embryos, this simply 'pav[es] the way for outlawing both abortion and the destruction of embryos created outside the womb through artificial reproductive technology', rather than making the procedure illegal.

Her comment piece berates the Mother Jones article's author for jumping to the conclusion that Ryan, by extension of the Act, wants to lock up Romney's children.

In fact, Soupcoff highlights that a prohibition on destroying or conducting research on unused embryos created via IVF is a change that would not make IVF 'impossible or even particularly difficult'. Those who do have embryos left over after their procedure, which is not always the case, may still choose to preserve or donate them.

As previously reported in BioNews 633 and 655, both Mississippi voters and the Oklahoma Supreme Court have in recent months prevented constitutional amendments to expand the definition of personhood to include fertilised embryos.

Indeed, Soupcoff remarks that the Sanctity of Life Act is deemed by – a US website that tracks the progress of bills and members of the US Congress – 'to have a one percent chance of being enacted'.

Distortion overtakes Ryan’s IVF proposal
National Post |  15 August 2012
More Bad Reporting on Ryan and Abortion
National Review Online |  15 August 2012
Paul Ryan’s Extreme Abortion Views
The Daily Beast |  11 August 2012
Paul Ryan: the 'Personhood' Crocodile?
Huffington Post Blog |  16 August 2012
Paul Ryan: the small government champion who could force transvaginal ultrasounds on pregnant women
Guardian (Comment Is Free) |  16 August 2012
Ryan Sponsored Abortion Bill That Would Make Romney's Kids Criminals
Mother Jones |  14 August 2012
3 September 2012 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A proposal to extend the definition of human life to 'all human beings at any stage of development' has failed to gain enough support to be put to a public vote in Colorado, USA...
8 May 2012 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared void a ballot initiative that would have asked voters to expand the definition of a person in the state constitution to include human embryos and fetuses....
21 November 2011 - by Dr Morven Shearer 
On 8 November the Mississippi electorate voted against an amendment to the Bill of Rights in their state Constitution which would have redefined life as beginning at the moment of fertilisation – the so-called 'personhood amendment' (Proposition 26)...
14 November 2011 - by Rachel Lloyd 
Voters in the US state of Mississippi have voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined life as beginning at fertilisation. The proposed amendment would have afforded embryos and fetuses – whether conceived naturally or artificially - similar legal protection as that covering all US citizens but was rejected by over 55 per cent of voters on 8 November...
15 October 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A group is being formed in Michigan to oppose the US state's current restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which do not allow scientists to use embryos that have been left over after IVF. Michigan scientists are permitted to use ES cell lines obtained from other states...
4 September 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
New regulations on the use of human embryonic stem cells (ES cell) have been adopted in the US state of Massachusetts. However, Harvard University, as well as other research centres and hospitals, say that the regulations could criminalise certain research activities and leave researchers open to prosecution...
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