Eli Reshef MD
Like road rage, what appears to be a sensible idea for somebody one moment may degenerate into a nightmare of unintended consequences for all. This legislative session it is “Fetal Personhood” bills, presented in both Oklahoma House and Senate, that illustrate how uncontrolled passion may drag our state into an embarrassing swamp of inadvertent legal, medical, and administrative nightmares.
“Fetal Personhood” bills attempt to accord the status of a Person to an “Unborn Child,” defined as any human entity from fertilized egg to birth. It is a clear attempt by passionate anti-abortion activists to indirectly overturn Roe V. Wade. Regardless of one’s position in the hotly-debated abortion issue, however, Fetal Personhood bills, if passed, will give a black eye to common sense, human rights and dignity, and the reputation of our state.
Consider this: by giving a fertilized egg, an embryo, or a fetus “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the state,” we are creating a new class of legal persons, and thus single out an existing class of persons (fertile women) for unequal treatment by the law. A man’s body would not be subjected to the same scrutiny. By granting the embryo equal protection of the laws, the state would be forced to deny the same to the woman. Personhood laws would allow the government to infringe upon one of citizens’ most fundamental rights, the right to privacy free from governmental intrusion. Ironically, the same people that decry such intrusion are at the forefront of promoting such onerous legislation.
In nature, only 30% of fertilized human eggs become babies. The remainder is genetically defective and most are therefore spontaneously miscarried. By the new definition, a miscarriage is essentially an unexplained death of a “person”. Must the state then issue a death certificate, investigate every pregnancy loss, and consider the womb a crime scene or require a coroner’s report? If we bestow a person status on any embryo, must we then transfer any embryo, healthy or not, into the womb during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure? Should a laboratory technician be prosecuted for murder if some embryos do not survive laboratory conditions?
The 14th Amendment instructs us to carry out a census every 10 years. Must we then count all millions of embryo “persons” in frozen storage in IVF labs throughout the U.S.? And think about the tax code. If you have a woman who might experience two, three, four miscarriages in a year, can she claim those unborn people on her taxes? As absurd as these examples are, the unintended consequences of Fetal Personhood are far-reaching and will erode the fabric of our Constitution, our privacy, and of sound medical and legal principles.
I call on House Speaker Steele, Senate Pro-Tem Bingman, and Governor Fallin to restore dignity to our legislative process by opposing Fetal Personhood bills, as was done by many of their Republican colleagues in other states.
Eli Reshef MD practices medicine in Oklahoma City.