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May 2008
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Reproductive Rights? Not in Indiana

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]helenangel)

State bill would limit procreation assistance: Process would rule out homosexuals, singles

State bill would limit procreation assistance

Process would rule out homosexuals, singles

By Niki Kelly

The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gays, lesbians and single Hoosiers would be prohibited from using medical science to help have a child under a bill being considered by an interim legislative committee.

The legislation puts Indiana in the middle of a national battle over reproductive rights and promises to be contentious.

“If we’re going to try to put Indiana on the map, I wouldn’t go this route,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. “It feels pretty chilling. It is governmental intrusion into a very private part of our lives.”

But Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, said Indiana law currently has no regulations regarding assisted reproduction and should have similar requirements to adoption in Indiana.

“Needless to say it’s going to be enormously controversial and difficult,” she said. “Our statutes are nearly silent on all this. You can think of guidelines, but when you put it on paper it becomes different.”

Miller chairs the Health Finance Commission – a panel of lawmakers that will vote Oct. 20 on whether to recommend the legislation to the full General Assembly.

A “no” vote doesn’t preclude it from being offered in the 2006 legislative short session, which starts in January. A “yes” vote does not ensure its passage.

There are two parts to the draft legislation – the first dealing with some irregularities in central Indiana regarding surrogacy and adoptions. But the part of the bill raising eyebrows involves assisted reproduction.

It defines assisted reproduction as causing pregnancy by means other than sexual intercourse, including intrauterine insemination, donation of an egg, donation of an embryo, in vitro fertilization and transfer of an embryo, and sperm injection.

The bill then requires “intended parents” to be married to each other and specifically says an unmarried person may not be an intended parent.

A doctor can’t begin an assisted reproduction technology procedure that may result in a child’s being born until the intended parents of the child have received a certificate of satisfactory completion of an assessment required under the bill.

The assessment is very similar to what is required for infant adoption and would be conducted by a licensed child placing agency in Indiana.

Some of the required information includes the fertility history of the parents, education and employment information, hobbies, personality descriptions, verification of marital status, child care plans, letter of reference and criminal history checks.

A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents is also required, including individual participation in faith-based or church activities.

The legislation appears to affect some married couples, although the rough draft is unclear at times. Miller said the draft will be cleaned up before a vote.

The bill does not apply to assisted reproduction in which the child is the genetic child of both of the intended parents – i.e., the sperm is from the father and the egg is from the mother.

But married couples that need one or the other would still have to go through an assessment process and establish parentage in a court.

A judge couldn’t establish parentage of a child born through assisted reproduction without the assessment certificate and a separate certificate from the physician involved.

A court would also be prohibited from granting a petition to establish parentage if the parents have been convicted of several specific crimes listed, such as murder, reckless homicide and neglect of a dependent.

Others include felony battery, arson and any felony drug conviction, although if the offense were committed more than five years before the petition, the judge could choose to grant the petition.

The bill would also establish criminal penalties for those participating in artificial reproductive procedures without following the process. The maximum charge is a misdemeanor.

Indiana Civil Liberties Union Attorney Ken Falk said his office began hearing about the bill Friday – one day after the rough draft was discussed by the Health Finance Commission.

He has not read it fully but said it sets up a clear discrimination that would be difficult to uphold. He considers the bill to be unique nationally.

“My question is ‘What is the danger that we are legislating against?’ Are we saying that only married persons should be able to be parents, which is certainly a slap in the face to many same-sex couples but also to many who don’t have a partner but have undertaken being a parent,” he said.

Miller said the state often reacts to problems and she instead wants to be proactive on this issue.

“We’re not trying to stop people from having kids; we’re just trying to find some guidelines,” she said.

She did concede it would stop single people from using methods other than sexual intercourse but said “all the studies indicate the best environment for a child is to have a two-parent family – a mother and a father.”

Sen. Gary Dillon, R-Pierceton, is a member on the commission and said parts of the legislation have valid points. He does have some “reservations” about limiting the reproductive rights of single people but quoted the same studies as Miller about the health of a child in two-parent homes.

“There’s a concern that there’s no regulation over this whole industry,” he said.

Cockrum said this type of bill is the reason citizens are so worried that Roe v. Wade will be overturned at the national level.

“If we can’t decide when to terminate a pregnancy some worry that government could tell us when we can choose to be pregnant,” she said. “The questions get trickier by the day.”

She said this bill shows a “pursuit of legislative values becoming a part of our daily lives even more so than they already are.”

Cockrum believes, though, that the bill has a slim chance at passing – especially in a short session and during an election year where many lawmakers want to avoid controversial votes.

You have GOT to be kidding me. If this isn't a glaring violation of personal rights, I don't know what is.

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