COLUMBUS, Ohio — It took Mindi Axner three and a half years, at least one miscarriage and one surgery before she got pregnant with her twins.
“We call them our miracle babies – even at 19,” Axner said. “We feel incredibly lucky every day.”
Axner thanks his doctors and in vitro fertilization, or IVF, for Emily and Sam.
“I’m devastated to hear that this is being considered an option to be removed,” she added. “My heart would break for [parents seeking IVF] because if it weren’t for that option, the chances of us having children today would probably be very unlikely.”
House Bill 704, sponsored by State Rep. Gary Click, a Vickery Republican, would recognize “personality” from the moment of conception.
Physicians like Dr. Thomas Burwinkel, OB/GYN, fear the end of their medical practice.
“The definition of ‘unborn child’ in the bill makes us wonder whether the rejection of unused embryos would be considered a criminal act,” he said.
Burwinkel testified against HB 598, a total ban on abortion, which has similar language in the bill. His team told News 5 that this also applies to this bill.
Most embryos created specifically for IVF will not survive to be implanted, Burwinkel said.
Some embryos are not viable and are therefore rejected. Under this bill, it could be considered an abortion, Burwinkel said.
“Our IVF practices have enough difficulty finding trained embryologists and physicians to work with us,” he said. “If the risk of going to jail is possible doing your daily chores, are you going to work in Ohio?”
There will be a “chilling” impact on Ohioans if they have to transfer multiple embryos, he said. This would lead to triple, quadruple, quintuplet or more pregnancies.
“These patients would not have the ability under this bill to make these very high-risk pregnancies safer through the use of selective reduction,” he said, referring to the medical procedure used to reduce the number of embryos to a safer number for a woman and her fetuses.
Since the bill is so new, Jerry Freewalt of the Ohio Catholic Conference said the group is still weighing whether to support it.
“We support laws that will protect human life from the moment of conception,” said Brian Hickey of the Ohio Catholic Conference. “We don’t know the implications of this bill.”
Hickey added: “We also support the legislation, new legislation that will strictly help mothers, families and children from the moment of conception until they are adults.”
Opponents have argued that if this bill were to go through, the least Ohio could do is provide alimony or tax credits upon conception.
“Amen,” Hickey said in response.
Right now, Axener is more concerned about future laws governing her and others’ bodies.
“Starting with Roe v. Wade and now defining personality and now this next step – trying to restrict IVF,” she said. “I don’t think any area is safe from impact.”
She worries about the powers of the sponsor of the bill, she said.
“I think we certainly have to look at why this is happening, why someone in this capacity without the proper skills and the right knowledge of what it means has to make decisions for women and couples, to tell them what they can and cannot do so based on a limited scope of one’s religious views, without looking at the medical implications, without looking at the larger picture of individuals and having their own rights,” Axner said.
Click, a pastor, earned a degree in religious education from Midwestern Baptist College, an unaccredited liberal arts school in Michigan.
His religion plays into his recent bills, Axner said, citing a Tuesday News 5 Click article. He also introduced a bill that would severely limit health care for transgender youth.
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Religions differ on assisted reproduction. A 2016 study by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Fertility and IVF Center of Alexandria found that Judaism, Shia Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism supported all types of assisted reproduction.
See table below.
“I actually spoke to religious people within my faith before I even went down this path, and that’s completely acceptable from a Jewish perspective,” Axner said.
Religion continues to be an element of the discourse surrounding reproductive health.
“These beliefs are neither Jewish nor respectful of the right of the Jewish people to practice our religious values in accordance with Jewish law,” said Sharon Mars, senior rabbi at Temple Israel Columbus, in testimony at a hearing on the ban on abortion.
RELATED: ‘It’s not our belief’ – Jewish community speaks out against Ohio bill banning abortion
Now, members of the Jewish community are rallying to tell the Ohio Supreme Court that the six-week abortion ban violates their religious freedom.
Although not fully redacted, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism said its Ohio branch (RAC-OH) was working with other Jewish groups to file an amicus brief, jumping on the original lawsuit from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood to share their agreement.
“To see Republicans like Mike DeWine, JD Vance, like Republicans at the state level and at the local level, telling me that other religious beliefs, it seems, are more valid – it’s so sad and it’s so wrong,” Marisa Nahem, a Jewish woman, told News 5.
RELATED: Jewish community to join ACLU and abortion providers in lawsuit against Ohio’s six-week abortion ban
“Changing the IVF rules is not on the governor’s agenda,” Dan Tierney, spokesman for Governor DeWine, told News 5.
News 5 reached out to Click with more than a dozen questions, ranging from whether this bill would impact IVF, to whether it would impact birth control, to whether abortion at some point would be considered murder.
He didn’t respond to them, said he had read an unpublished op-ed by him, and tweeted about our attempt to ask him for more information, during which he quoted a question that was not asked.
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