[T]he life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood...
While the fetal personhood movement has largely originated as an attempt to limit reproductive rights, most clearly abortion and certain forms of birth control, the impact of shifting legal personhood to the prenatal stage affects other life science technologies. In vitro fertilization is a commonly used assisted reproductive technology (ART) in which embryos are created in vitro (outside the body) for implantation and pregnancy. In the process, some embryos are either destroyed or unused, and legal personhood for the embryo could potentially upend how IVF is performed, if at all. Fetal personhood further impacts the use of embryonic stem cell techniques, in which stem cells are derived from embryos leftover from IVF procedures and are used to treat various kinds of cellular degeneration (e.g., Parkinson’s disease). Elevating the legal status of the embryo could potentially derail this field of research and medicine. Therefore, fetal personhood strikes at reproductive rights, fertility treatments and stem cell therapies. At the present time, renewed efforts are underway in Mississippi as well as other states to place personhood initiatives on the ballot. The decision from the Oklahoma court on that state’s failed initiative is instructive, because the fetal personhood efforts began in response to the invalidation of many abortion-restricting laws in the country under either Roe v. Wade (1973) or Casey. However, the Oklahoma court applied the same constitutional lens to the proposed amendment that it would apply to more routine abortion restrictions, suggesting that the legal strategy of fetal personhood may be more legally vulnerable than its proponents have hoped.
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