Rich Vaughn, IFLG: Anti-Reproductive Rights Judicial Appointments to Impact Intended Parents for Generations

Anti-ART Judges Threaten Reproductive Rights for Future Generations

For decades, assisted reproductive technology has been improving, advancing and expanding the potential for previously infertile people to become biological parents. But the recent influx of right-wing and anti-reproductive freedom judicial appointees has many people worried that legislative progress and technological advancements could be thwarted for generations to come.

I got into the practice of assisted reproductive technology law because I saw the exciting potential of the rapidly advancing technology and because of my own positive experience of becoming a dad via ART. Often at this time of year, as the holiday season brings our families and loved ones together and thoughts turn to the coming of a new and promising year, I find myself writing about some new technological advancement or policy decision that will make assisted reproduction easier or more accessible to more intended parents in the future.

For example, in early 2018 I wrote about the miraculous successful birth of a baby girl resulting from implanting an embryo that had been frozen and stored for 24 years. This amazing embryo donation program made it possible for a young couple to benefit from assisted reproductive technology they would have otherwise been unable to afford.

In 2013 I wrote about a scientific breakthrough enabling scientists to produce both viable sperm and egg cells from the skin cells of mice, rather than from stem cells as had previously been demonstrated. In 2016, I wrote an update reporting scientists’ success in creating a viable embryo from skin cells of a single mouse. As I wrote then:

The implications for human procreation are mind-blowing. In the future, this technology could make it possible for two men to have a child carrying each of their DNA—although, as The Telegraph article points out, a surrogate would still be necessary to carry the embryo to birth. It might also allow a man to fertilize a cell with his own DNA, or allow a woman whose ability to have children was destroyed due to cancer treatment or lost due to age to have a child with her DNA. It might also help save endangered species from extinction.

Only last summer I wrote about the first U.S. live birth resulting from a uterine transplant, the second such birth in the world:

The June 2019 birth was the second live birth resulting from a uterine transplant from a deceased donor: the first occurred in 2017 in Brazil, when a 32-year-old woman born without a womb delivered a child after receiving a uterus donated by a 45-year-old woman who'd died of a stroke.

As described by the Cleveland Clinic, uterine factor infertility, which includes both women who were born with no uterus or uterine damage and those injured by infection or medical procedure, affects 3 percent to 5 percent of females, an estimated 50,000 women in the United States alone. As explained in the description of the clinical trial, for some women with the condition, uterine transplantation may represent the only option for parenthood…

And I have returned several times to the promise of assisted reproduction technology to restore the possibility for parenthood to wounded veterans as well as to active service members facing combat or other conditions that might render them infertile.

But even in the face of these remarkable technological and public policy achievements, opponents of reproductive rights have been diligently at work to sway public opinion and to raise faux human rights concerns about the effects of assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. One of the newest and most dangerous fronts in the ideological fight against reproductive rights is in the courts, where the issue of the “personhood” of embryos—the question of when human life begins—has repeatedly risen in cases of embryo custody and disposition disputes. Conservative and religious activists fight to establish the same rights for unborn embryos as for living human beings, a side door used to attack Roe v Wade and women’s right to choose. And, while most opposition to reproductive technology has come from the right, a few traditional supporters of women’s rights, such as Gloria Steinem, have spoken out against the lifting of New York’s surrogacy ban.

Most recently, the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sara Pitlyk, an anti-choice and anti-ART lawyer and former Brett Kavanaugh law clerk, to the federal bench in Missouri—a state that recently banned all abortions past eight weeks, is trying to shut down its single remaining abortion clinic, and where courts have already ruled that embryos are persons for purposes of wrongful death and murder charges.

As reported by Salon, in rating Pitlyk “unqualified” to serve on the bench, William Hubbard, chair of the American Bar Association’s standing committee on the federal judiciary, wrote:

“Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness. Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals, she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”

Nevertheless, Pitlyk was confirmed in a party-line vote, with only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voting against the confirmation. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Senate’s other pro-choice Republican member, was not present to vote.

While Pitlyk’s anti-choice stance is unsurprising—she supported Iowa’s six-week abortion ban later found to be unconstitutional, according to Salon—she also has vehemently and public opposed many forms of assisted reproduction, including surrogacy, which she said leads to “diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond,” and equating thawing or destroying unused, frozen embryos with killing children.

The Republicans’ mission to pack the judicial pipelines with right-wing conservatives for generations to come is in large measure succeeding. Hard-won rights of women, minorities, LGBT people and others will meet repeated court challenges in the years to come. Even such positive and life-affirming technologies as those intended to help infertile people bring new life into the world are under attack by those with cripplingly narrow visions of procreation, family and love. For decades, intended parents and their attorneys, seeking to make the best decisions and take the best actions for their families, will face the religion-fueled bigotry of judges like Pitlyk and her ilk. It’s too late to undo the damage, to remove the roadblocks, already put into place.

We can use our voting power in 2020 to ensure the packing of the U.S. court system with opponents of reproductive rights will be limited to a single four-year term and to elect leaders who uphold our values. Even after a year that has seen so many attacks on equal rights, so many laws passed restricting women’s right to choose, so many Far Right judges confirmed, I still believe, in the famous words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I still have optimism that fairness and equality will ultimately prevail.

 

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.