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Public health policy and the politics of the embryo

Lois Uttley, MPP and Ronora Pawelko, JD. Mergerwatch Project, Family Planning Advocates of NYS, 17 Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207, 518-436-8408, ext. 211, lois@mergerwatch.org

Anti-choice organizations have taken their battle against women's reproductive rights well beyond opposition to abortion in recent years. Determined to protect all of what they call "pre-born life," these groups are now advocating sweeping legal protections not only for the fetus, but also for the embryo and the pre-embryo stages of blastocyst and zygote. These groups have opposed emergency contraception out of the belief (scientifically unproven) that EC might cause the destruction of a fertilized egg or zygote. They also consider embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic cloning, assisted reproductive techniques, pre-implantation genetic screening and the develpment of new vaccines (grown on culture mediums derived from fetal cells) to be "pro-life issues." They argue that embryos should not be used for reearch purposes, even when the resulting treatments could save lives. This paper will examine emerging state and federal policies proposing to grant legal protections for embryos. It will review, as well, the influsion into public policies of fundamentalist religious beliefs about when life begins. Among the topics to be explored are: the adoption of federal scientific research policy in 2002 requiring that embryos be treated as subjects whose welfare must be considered; state and federal policies on therapeutic cloning; and state laws defining life as beginning at conception. The paper will articulate the shared implications of these policy trends for reproductive health services and biogenetic research.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Bioethics, Reproductive Health

Related Web page: www.mergerwatch.org

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Defining Personhood: Ethical and Public Policy Implications for Reproductive Health Services and Biogenetic Research

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA