Modern science, too, has been revealing. We now know that even if life doesn't technically begin at the moment of conception, it begins soon thereafter. We can see the fetus inside the womb; we can't pretend it isn't a baby. And really, with preemies now surviving after just a few months' gestation, it's hard to argue that we should be allowed to kill an already developing six-week-old fetus, much less a six-month-old one.

But even a fervent pro-lifer like myself gets confused when dealing with the topic of embryos. Many of my friends, and even a family member, were able to have children only because a physician harvested their eggs and fertilized them in the proverbial Petri dish, and then implanted them back into their bodies. These are people desperate to have a family, not people trying to avoid the responsibilities therein.

But the advances that have allowed them to conceive have led to some tough ethical questions.

Is that fertilized clump of cells a person? Is it a person while in a Petri dish, or only when inside a womb? Does it have rights?

In the continually evolving world of fertility treatments, nothing is simple. "You talk about the moment of conception," says Dr. Randall Craig, a Valley infertility specialist, "but with in vitro fertilization, there are numerous gradations instead of one moment. There are a dozen steps — and only after you've done the first two or three do you have a viable embryo."

Currently, the law allows women to destroy unused embryos, donate them to another woman, donate them to research, or freeze them. One study I read about found that many women were so torn by their options (and their conflicted feelings about "their" embryos) that they opted to do nothing. There's apparently medical storage units filled with freezer after freezer, all packed with tiny fertilized embryos; what happens to them in cases of death or divorce is becoming increasingly problematic.

These are very, very complicated issues. But the more I've examined what's happening here in Arizona, the more I'm convinced that we're taking a very complex problem and trying to shoehorn it into a simple fight about abortion. (I say "simple" not because abortion is an easy issue, but because most of us already have an entrenched position on the subject; it doesn't require us to do any soul searching because we already know exactly what we believe.)

As it turns out, CAP's efforts on this front are part of a loosely organized national movement. A similar bill has been introduced in Georgia; a bill that would bar compensation for egg donors just made it through the Oklahoma Senate. An annual report for one of the nonprofit agencies working with CAP in Arizona actually boasts of using embryos as a "wedge" issue. The organization's strength, its founder writes, "has been to shift the debate, create a wedge, and reframe the discussion to discuss the need for human eggs" — thereby compelling couples to donate them rather than destroy them.

I feel queasy any time someone boasts abut "shifting the debate." And sure enough, what happened in this month at the Arizona Legislature has been both sloppy and intellectually dishonest.

Indeed, in just a few weeks' time, with very little public debate, the Legislature may well make it illegal to harm an embryo during research, even as it'll remain perfectly legal for woman to destroy them. Tell me how that makes sense.

Let's face it: The ethical implications of these issues are vast and confusing. To make matters worse, they're constantly shifting; like it or not, it's a brave new world, and procedures that would have been inconceivable to my grandmother have now directly led to the conception of her great-grandchildren.

Unlike some physicians I spoke to with, I don't have a problem with the Legislature addressing some of these issues. This is important stuff. We should be talking about it.

But I have a huge problem with the way the Legislature has chosen to deal with it in this case.

If our representatives were really serious about grappling with this topic, they'd have summoned the experts. We would have heard long, serious testimony from people in the bioethics field. We'd have heard physicians testify, in detail, about the regulation that's already on the table from the federal government (which is enormous) and the potential moral quandaries they find themselves facing. We would have heard from women who've donated their eggs. We would have heard from the couples who benefited from their donations.

We didn't hear any of that.

We instead heard brief testimony from a few out-of-state hired guns loosely affiliated with CAP. And we heard limited testimony from just two physicians who were in opposition — even though more physicians were present at the House committee hearing, Representative Nancy Barto declined to let them all speak.

And we almost didn't even get to hear from the two physicians in question. Nate Zoneraich, a fertility specialist with offices in Tempe and Scottsdale, has been one of the loudest voices opposing the bills. He tells me that he heard about them only by a fluke: An OB/GYN he knows professionally just happens to be married to State Representative Eric Meyer, a Phoenix Democrat. Meyer, who is himself a physician, let his wife know about the bill, and she called Zoneraich.

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9 comments
Shannon
Shannon

When I was having trouble getting pregnant I went to a fertility clinic that does more than just IVF. Sometimes hormonal treatments, or other alternative solutions, can be successful & less expensive.

Patricia Abraham
Patricia Abraham

The legislature in AZ scares me to death. No helmets required for motorcyles, anyone can ride in the bed of a pick up, no permit for concealed weapons, carry a gun into a bar, take down photo radar and now this. These people are certifiably looney and I wish I could move to another more progressive state. There is no place for government in our private lives and choices.

FW
FW

Well, I must assume then that sperm donations are next to be taken off the list of things a person is legally allowed to sell. Right?

And nice misdirection and obfuscation of the REAL issue, and the REAL people that these statutes seek to control - the women who wish to sell their eggs. Not at all surprised that you don't mention them except in reference to the UK.

I suppose though that you might think it selfish of those women to do such a thing, what with the sactity of human life at stake and all.

But way to fight for the rights of women! - Women who want babies anyway. Good fake liberal, good!

Publius
Publius

How long are we going to allow nuts, morons and religious fanatics to dominate policy in this State? The right wingnuts can save all the potential humans, but waste all the existing humans with every nut job carrying a gun. We cannot regulate guns,this bunch says, but we can regulate the heck out of every private reproduction decision. This State legislature is through the looking glass. For better or worst, what this State is, is a function of the right wing Republican majority in the legislature the last 30 years.

HH
HH

CAP has been trying to get these bills into law for the past 4 years. The bills were killed last time they tried by those who understand and have needed assisted reproduction and with the help of Janet Napolitano. Now, with a Right Wing subversive group of legislators,and a Republican governor who is in the pocket of CAP, these bills may sail through! Our state was more progressive and less devisive when Evan Mecham was governor! None of these bills will make Arizona a better place to live or work and they are not even protecting a marginalized group or righting a wrong. So why is our legislature wasting our time with this. We have much bigger problems in this state!

CooperG
CooperG

How exactly is this "smaller government?"

How is this "less government?"

Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

It's about time some real-life truths to this story are coming to light-thank you Sarah! Now can you get the AZ Republic to publish your story? What they label CAP "successes" are actually losses to our rights as citizens of AZ.

S.M.
S.M.

When will these legislators start thinking of their constituents instead of bowing to the religious lobbyists? They clearly don't even know what they are legislating. Scary.

majii
majii

"You keep what you kill." The majority of the citizens of AZ voted these clowns into office, and now everyone in the state has to live under the new laws. The voters "killed" their individual rights by electing these people and have to accept the situation they find themselves in.

 
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