When Zoneraich called the national group that works with physicians in his field, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, it had no idea the bills even existed. And, yes, it told him, he should be very, concerned.

Zoneraich had learned about the bills just days before their first committee hearings, which is the only time public comment is allowed. He managed to pull together a group of colleagues to testify — but when they got to the Capitol, they learned that the Senate and the House were hearing the same bills in committee at the very same time. (That's practically unheard of, Capitol watchers tell me.) The physicians were forced to choose which committee to attend.

Even more galling: Representative Barto, who was running the House committee hearing, actually juggled the order in which bills were heard to give CAP's out-of-state expert time to get done testifying at the Senate and sprint over to the House. The physicians were given no such preference.

Physicians say that two new bills pushed by a conservative Christian group could have serious implications for Arizona fertility patients.
Physicians say that two new bills pushed by a conservative Christian group could have serious implications for Arizona fertility patients.

When it came time to vote, Zoneraich recalls, the Republican state representatives all provided lengthy explanations of the problems they had with the bill — yet ultimately, they all voted for it.

"We're hearing these explanations, and we're thinking they're actually going to vote no," he recalls. "They're making arguments why the bill shouldn't go through, and yet they were all voting yes!"

Indeed, the amended bills sailed through the Senate and appear likely to pass in the House. The physicians believe their only hope may be a veto from Governor Jan Brewer. They've been trying to put the pressure on, as is RESOLVE and its network of parents. They point out that one of the bills would add duplicative regulation to the egg-donation process. (The FDA already requires that certain disclosures be made to egg donors. And unlike the state of Arizona, they actually have the mechanism to see that the rules are being followed.) They also note that the second bill will likely wipe out any form of research using embryos in Arizona — including, perhaps, the ability of local physicians to stay up to date with training and new techniques.

The pressure is being felt. Senator Linda Gray, the Phoenix Republican who served as a primary sponsor of both Senate bills, admits that she was somewhat blind-sided by all the criticism the bill has received.

Incredibly, Gray actually confirmed to me last week what the doctors have long assumed: She didn't read the bills before signing on as their primary sponsor.

"I don't think CAP realized the extent that the bill was going to," she tells me. "We were introducing bills there that last week as fast we could. I had not read them completely through." Once she started hearing concerns, she says, "we began looking at that, and calling CAP. I told them, 'I want this out,' and they worked with me."

Gray insisted that she never intended to upset fertility specialists or their patients. Three decades ago, she says, she herself was a member of RESOLVE, the chief support/advocacy group for women dealing with infertility. Her only grandchild is the happy result of in vitro fertilization.

"I know the pain these families go through," she says. She stresses that the amendments in place will allow clinics to advertise for egg donors and will allow payment beyond "direct" expenses. They'll also be stripping the possible felony punishment for doctors, although the ban on harming an embryo through research will remain.

She notes, truthfully, that one local infertility specialist, Drew Moffitt, is now in favor of the bill. "We worked with infertility clinics," she says.

But that's cold comfort to the other clinics in town; they appear to be uniformly opposed. Tipton, of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, says they are "bad bills." And Larsen, the Chandler-based based infertility specialist, tells me that they will have a big impact.

"I don't think they fully considered the implications of what they were doing," he says. "Do they want to make it harder for women to get in vitro fertilization treatment? Because that's what you're going to get."

And the physicians say it's all the more appalling that this could well happen so quickly, with so little discussion.

"To me, it just saddens me that they'd push something like this through with no debate," Larsen says. "If you want to ban embryo research in Arizona, at least have an open hearing on it."

Zoneraich agrees.

"This has been a crash course in politics," he says. "It's been unbelievable."

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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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