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Sen. Margaret A. Sitte, Published February 16 2013

Letter: The truth about ND embryo bill

SB 2302, the ethical treatment of human embryos, has failed. It generated much criticism and much misinformation. In no way was the bill intended to cast aspersions on the fine work done by the in vitro doctors in North Dakota. In no way was the bill intended to stop the wonderful work that is done to help infertile couples have children.

The bill was written to ensure that human embryos would always be treated ethically and with dignity.

The bill affirmed that a child in the embryonic stage is not property but is a developing human being, and therefore couldn’t be disposed of at will. Embryos could be frozen or adopted by others if the parents didn’t want to use them, and if an embryo failed to develop within 36 hours of being thawed, it could have been discarded.

Each embryo would have had confidential identification maintained in the clinic. In California, one doctor fathered 500 children by donating his sperm to multiple women. As a result, many children are half siblings and don’t know their genetic makeup.

The bill updated the state’s cloning law, which hasn’t been changed in a decade. It prohibited the creation of part human/part animal hybrids. The bill also prohibited the destruction of children in the embryonic stage in order to harvest their organs or experiment on them.

The bill did not ban fertility treatments or prevent freezing of embryos to preserve a couple’s fertility.

It did not prohibit the donation of eggs for fertility treatment, but it did prohibit the sale of eggs or sperm. In other parts of the country, college-age women are being recruited by height, hair and eye color, and IQ to donate their eggs for payment. Some have been rendered sterile or have even died from the high doses of hormones.

The bill was modeled on a German in vitro law, which provides for the health and safety of both women and children and is more effective than current practice in the United States. It did not threaten the practice of in vitro doctors, but it would have required some changes in the way they practice.

Whether or not the bill passed, it was an important issue to raise. The central question is this: What is a human embryo? When does life begin? Someone said in committee that a frozen embryo is like a pot roast, a piece of property that people pay for and can keep in the freezer or dispose of at will. Others maintained that a human embryo is a human life and deserves to be treated with a high duty of care. That central question has still not been resolved.

Sitte, R-Bismarck, has served District 35 in the North Dakota Senate since 2011. She served in the House from 2003-05.