Bill defines life, grants rights to fertilized eggs

Posted on April 5, 2012

Times Daily, April 5, 2012 by Hannah Mask

Sen. Phil Williams, R-Etowah, said those who oppose a proposed Personhood Bill have dispersed numerous “red herrings” in order to deter voters.

The bill, SB5, is a nationwide movement that seeks to establish that life begins immediately upon conception — when sperm meets an egg. Implantation, wherein the egg attaches to the uterine wall, does not necessarily have to take place in order for a human life to begin, Williams said.

Opponents to the bill have stated that it purports to illegalize all forms of birth control, as well as in vitro fertilization and abortions.

“Abortions, probably (would be illegal),” Williams said. “I’m not aware of any birth control that would be prevented, unless we’re talking about the morning after (Plan B) pill. That’s something that destroys a fertilized egg.”

On the other hand, organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have stated that pregnancy only begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus.

“Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later,” a Princeton University study states.

“Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant.”

According to Plan B’s website, the pill should be taken no later than 72 hours, or three days, after unprotected intercourse, though the sooner it’s taken, the better it works.

Plan B One-Step isn’t effective if you’re already pregnant, and it won’t terminate an existing pregnancy, according its website.

Still, University of North Alabama assistant professor of health promotion, Lee Refroe, said the debate lies in when “pregnancy” begins — at fertilization or implantation?

Last semester in one of her human sexuality classes, Renfroe said her students got into a debate about the issue, with some claiming the Plan B pill could be likened to an abortion because there is a time frame in which it could prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.

“The question about the morning after pill is that it’s possible that it keeps fertilization from happening, but it’s also possible that it simply keeps the egg from attaching to the uterus,” Renfroe said. “The question is, ‘Is it a life when the egg is fertilized or is it a life when it attaches?’ I can’t answer when life begins. That’s a gray area that’s debatable for some.

“There is a science factor to it. You can say that (life) happens at fertilization, because there is a person being formed. However, my students argued that it’s not viable until it attaches to the wall of the uterus, because if an egg doesn’t attach, it will not have its source of life and will stop growing.”

Ben Dupre, director of Personhood Alabama, said when the bill was first introduced to the senate, the language defined personhood as the “beginning of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof.”

“We got some unexpected opposition from those in the in vitro field who were raising concerns, saying (the bill) would make their jobs more difficult and more expensive — they didn’t claim that it would stop what they’re doing,” he said. “A lot of (the rhetoric) used scare tactics, intentionally or otherwise, like claiming that if someone at the clinic dropped a petri dish containing an embryo, they would be charged with murder.

“As any judge or lawyer could tell you, you have to have an evil intent to be charged with murder.”

As a result of the in vitro community’s outcry, Dupre said the bill’s definition of “personhood” broadened to include implantation in the womb for fear that failing to expand its language would mean it wouldn’t pass.

However, he said he doesn’t agree with its new wording.

“First of all, the biology (with the wording) is inaccurate, but really what it means is that those in vitro clinics would have no responsibility for any embryo formed outside of the mother and (the embryos) could be destroyed intentionally,” he said. “They nonetheless convinced the Alabama senate to amend the bill, which, at that point, I could not support in good conscience.

“Sen. Williams pre-filed the same bill (for this senate session) … we’re working with the people in the House to try to get it introduced there.”

Though the bill’s new language has not yet been released, Dupre confirmed it reflects some of the in vitro community’s concerns.

“(The bill) is not designed to stop people who want to have babies (using in vitro),” he said.

“It’s not meant to stop all forms of birth control.

“Any concerns raised about what a Personhood Amendment does can be answered by a very simple response: We’re trying to protect all human life.”

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