Future of IVF, other fertility treatments uncertain after Roe overturned
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In the days following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which puts the legality of abortions in the hands of the states, many have questions about the future.
In Nebraska, abortion is still legal up until 20 weeks gestation, but it’s likely lawmakers, whether in a special session or in January, will bring abortion ban bills which often umbrella other fertility-related topics as well. Topics like in-vitro fertilization, access to procedures to end pregnancies when the fetus is no longer considered viable, and others.
Stasi Grenfell of Lincoln has dreams of growing her family. She has two boys she conceived naturally but shortly after the birth of the second child, she was diagnosed with endometriosis.
“I tried to conceive for two and a half years and in that time I had three losses,” Grenfell said. “The first was a blighted ovum, where I had surgery to remove the pregnancy - that was back in 2021. At the end of 2021, I had two miscarriages back to back.”
Now she’s undergoing in vitro fertilization. She’s far enough along in the process that she is planning to transfer one embryo into her uterus in July, with another embryo that’s on ice that she currently doesn’t have any plans for.
She said reading stories of what women undergoing IVF in states where abortion laws are going into place leaves her feeling uneasy about the future.
“I believe it’s like 2% of our population is born through IVF so it has given people the opportunity to grow their family,” Grenfell said. “So this decision with Roe putting a stop to that or limiting that in any way is so crazy and baffling to me, it’s difficult to conceptualize.”
The Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine said it’s received many questions from patients just like Grenfell.
Right now, nothing has changed but a special legislative session could be on the horizon. Trigger bills, including one that was brought to the floor and failed the last session in the Unicameral and ones passed in Oklahoma and Texas, define life at fertilization which could affect access to things like IVF.
“Preclude us from providing the standard of care for IVF the way that we do it now,” said Dr. Stephanie Gustin, medical director. “It may preclude us from safely testing embryos be it just chromosomes or genetic diseases; it may make it complicated to thaw embryos or work with embryos basically.”
Dr. Gustin said her organization is also working closely with state senators and their legal team. Treatments that terminate a pregnancy due to health complications, like ectopic pregnancies, may become illegal if no exceptions for abortions are allowed.
“Methotrexate is a medication that is used to stop a pregnancy that’s outside of the uterus to preserve ideally the woman’s fallopian tube and save her life,” Dr. Gustin said.
Grenfell is someone who had an ectopic pregnancy.
“And going through an ectopic was incredibly traumatic, so I can’t imagine having that happen and not feeling confident on what the course of action would be,” Grenfell said.
LB 933 which was the abortion ban trigger bill that failed last legislative session was also met with some criticism even from supporters for not excluding things like IVF from its wording. Some said that they wouldn’t consider re-voting until some of that wording was reworked.
State Senator Joni Albrecht, the author of LB933, did acknowledge last week to the Nebraska Public Media that they would “have some rewriting to do in the language from the trigger bill.”
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