Is Judge Amy Coney Barrett a poor choice for fertility rights in the US?

In an unprecedented move, the editors of the scientific journal, Fertility and Sterility have published an open letter. It speaks out against President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. The letter calls it an undoing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s progress and an enduring step backwards for women’s’ individual liberty.


Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Fertility and Sterility is the official scientific journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). This is the first time in the journal’s 70-year history that it has published a statement on the appointment of a US Supreme Court judge.

“The nomination of the justice under consideration is of such peril that we write these words of grave concern today.”

Dr. Eve Feinberg, Associate Editor, Fertility and Sterility, said she worries that Barrett would jeopardise access to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) based on Barrett’s personal belief that life begins at fertilisation. For instance, in terms of threats to patient access to IVF, Barrett has previously supported anti-choice groups that seek to criminalize discarding embryos, which is currently a standard part of the fertility procedure.

Generally, during IVF multiple eggs are fertilised outside of the female body. Only the resulting embryo that is most likely to survive is implanted. But this process is a problem for some people who believe that human life begins with conception, even though the majority of fertilisations in nature are also lost.  In fact, there have been numerous attempts over the years to pass legislation in the US defining human life as the immediate union of sperm and egg. This has led to odd legal movements. such as attempts to mandate funerals for miscarriages.

Dr. Feinberg and her colleagues are not keen on this type of interference. She said, “A lot of our success with in vitro fertilization has really been in the absence of government restrictions. I would argue it’s more pro-life to have healthier babies and healthier mothers.” If embryos are legally treated as human life, any procedure that might potentially harm an embryo could put physicians at risk for criminal prosecution. Discarding unused embryos, or those that have a genetic disorder, would be illegal. So, physicians performing IVF would have to transfer all embryos, resulting in greater health risk to women.

Dr. Feinberg said in an ideal world medical journals shouldn’t have to comment on political issues. She added, “Politics would be politics and medicine would be medicine.” But, as the authors of the letter state, “As a profession, we care for the health of families, parents and their children.” A position which leaves Dr Feinberg and her colleagues no option but to strongly voice their concerns. The authors said, “Should Amy Coney Barrett be seated to the Supreme Court, with her publicly stated positions that would severely hamper fertility treatments making them less effective and less safe. We fear that reproductive healthcare would be set back many decades, endangering the families for which we care.”

They have made their position clear and broken the 70-year tradition of not commenting on the world of US politics. This move speaks up for the reproductive health of all Americans.

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