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Nikki Haley Agrees That Frozen Zygotes Are Children

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week that fertilized eggs are legally children. In IVF procedures, often multiple eggs are harvested and fertilized as backups in case the first one does not result in a viable pregnancy. Once that happens, the others are destroyed. In Alabama, that will now be illegal. If many other states adopted the Alabama ruling, IVF will effectively cease to be an option for childless couples in those states.

Yesterday, Nikki Haley came out in support of the Alabama decision. Her hypocrisy is truly stunning. She said: "Embryos, to me, are babies." Just to get the terminology right, a fertilized egg is called a zygote. After a few days, it becomes a morula and by the fifth day it becomes a round ball called a blastocyst. Later it becomes an embryo. In the IVF procedure, generally what is frozen is the zygote or blastocyst. Blastocysts can be tested for genetic abnormalities before keeping the good ones for transfer into the hopeful mother or freezing.

Haley has revealed that her son was born using artificial insemination. This is a different procedure than IVF, but both artificial insemination and IVF can be used when a couple wants a child and is unable to have one using conventional means. If the problem lies with the man, then artificial insemination by injecting donor sperm can be used, but if the problem lies with the woman, then IVF can sometimes be used. So Haley had no problem using medical technology when it suited her desire for a child, but she is fine with making it more difficult and expensive for other women to have a baby using medical technology. In principle, when IVF is used, the doctor could collect a single egg, fertilize it, and transfer it, but if that fails, the whole process has to be repeated. Typically 5-15 eggs are collected per cycle, fertilized, allowed to develop for a few days, and then the good ones are frozen. This gives the best results, but it results in unneeded frozen zygotes or blastocysts after the woman gets pregnant. Keeping them forever is expensive and pointless, but that is what the Alabama ruling will now require since destroying them will be premeditated murder.

What we find so cynical is Haley's acceptance of medically aided reproductive technology when she needed it but her willingness to deny it to women for whom artificial insemination is not a solution. The technical term for this is "pandering to abortion absolutists." IVF is not a simple procedure and the Alabama ruling will basically end it in that state. To understand what a woman has to go through in IVF, read this column by Monica Hesse. It is not a walk in the park. (V)

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