ATLANTA – Lawmakers in two states, outraged by California’s “Octomom,” are seeking to limit the number of embryos that may be implanted by fertility clinics.
The legislation in Missouri and Georgia is intended to spare taxpayers from footing the bill for women having more children than they can afford. But critics say the measures also would make having even one child more difficult for women who desperately want to become mothers.
Debate has raged since Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets in Bellflower, Calif., on Jan. 26. She has six other children, lives in her mother’s three-bedroom home and has relied on food stamps and disability income to provide for her family.
“It’s unforgivable,” said Ralph Hudgens, a state senator who is sponsoring the Georgia bill. “This woman already has six children. She’s unemployed, and she’s going and having 14 children on the backs of the taxpayers of the state of California.”
Hudgens, a Republican, has proposed legislation that would allow no more than two embryos to be implanted at any one time in a woman younger than 40. For women older than 40, the legislation would limit the number of embryos to three to account for increased difficulty getting pregnant.
Hudgens agreed to sponsor the bill after being approached by the Georgia Right to Life group. The proposal comes up for a hearing today before the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.
Supporters say the bill would cut down on the number of unused embryos. But opponents argue that would severely limit the options of women paying $10,000 to $15,000 for each fertility cycle.
In Missouri, a bill seeks to enact guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The guidelines include a recommended number of embryos that should be implanted in a woman based on her age and prognosis for a successful pregnancy.
In most cases, the society calls for two or three embryos, though women older than 40 could be implanted with up to five.
Legal experts say limiting a woman’s right to procreate raises constitutional concerns.
“I think it raises huge legal questions,” said Ruth Claiborne, an Atlanta lawyer specializing in family law and infertility issues. “There are individual legal interests in procreation, and I think you would almost certainly see this challenged (in the courts).”