KANSAS CITY, Mo — New abortion bans are creating confusion and legal questions about the practice of discarding embryos as a part of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process.
During IVF, mature eggs are collected from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab.
Embryos with the best chances of survival are then transferred to a uterus. Not all IVF cycles are successful, which can lead to one or more of the embryos being discarded.
MJ Pratt and her husband, Josh Pratt, started their infertility journey in 2013.
After exhausting all other options, they decided to try in vitro fertilization in 2016 at the recommendation of their doctor.
“We were really disappointed because this meant that we were not able to conceive on our own, but I was hopeful because I knew about the advances in reproductive technology,” MJ Pratt said. “It was incredibly empowering, because we had struggled so hard to get pregnant on our own.”
Unfortunately their two embryos did not lead to a successful pregnancy, and Pratt ended up getting a hysterectomy after the process led to an infection.
Pratt turned her grief into advocacy work, creating an Instagram account called @The.Weird.Childless.Aunt.
She wanted to educate others on infertility and fight for families that are currently going through what she did.
“They are spread so thin emotionally with everything that is required of you when you are going through an infertility cycle,” Pratt said. “Because I’m no longer in the infertility battle, I can go out there and I can fight that fight.”
According to Resolve, a national infertility association, one in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy.
Pratt's growing audience is a frank reminder to her that couples struggling with infertility needs community and visibility.
“Like that’s a lot of people that are silently suffering and don’t have a voice,” Pratt said. “Just because, you know, some couples are fortunate enough to be able to create their own child naturally at home in the privacy of their own bedroom, does not mean that they are going to love their child any more or any less than a couple who creates their child with the help of a team of assisted reproductive doctors and stuff.”
Pratt is worried the overturning of Roe v. Wade will add financial barriers for families.
Their IVF cycle was $10,000 because they qualified for a program that was offered to military families, but even then, they relied on loans from the bank and donations from a GoFundMe page.
She is also concerned families would be restricted by moral barriers. If a law is written to establish personhood of a fertilized egg or an embryo, discarding them for any reason could conceivably violate the law on abortions.
“They believe that you are a human being with full autonomous legal rights at the moment of conception,” Prat said. “It is just ludicrous to me that the party that is so hell-bent on preserving the sanctity of life is preventing the creation of life and they are preventing the completion of families.”
She is also concerned the outlaw of all abortion pills will lead to many more health complications of mothers.
“With the outlaw of like abortion medication, it’s not just for abortion. If you have a miscarriage, sometimes you are prescribed some of those exact same things. I was when I lost my babies,” Pratt said. “What was I supposed to do? Just like go home and wait for an infection in the event of lingering uterine tissue? I was just supposed to die in my quest for motherhood? That’s ridiculous.”
KSHB 41 reached out to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to see how far the state’s ban will extend.
Prior to publication of this story, his office has not responded as to whether or not it would impact fertility treatments like IVF.
“The government doesn’t have the right to come in and tell you what is best for you and your body,” said Pratt.