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The Potential Impact of Dobbs v. Jackson, Reproductive Services, and Medical Tourism

The Potential Impact of Dobbs v. Jackson, Reproductive Services, and Medical Tourism

By Elizabeth Ziemba[i], JD, MPH, President of Medical Tourism Training, Inc.

What impact, if any, will the recent Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (Dobbs), have on IVF services in the United States?

Will the changes occurring in the country create opportunities for reproductive health service providers outside the US? Here is what is clear right now.

About Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The recent US Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the decades long precedent established in 1973 case of Roe v. Wade that had granted women the fundamental Constitutional right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction. The result of the Dobbs case is that abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right. Each one of the fifty states plus the District of Columbia is now in control of defining when women may access abortions and other reproductive services. How each state legislates this issue will impact the services available to women residing within that state or traveling to another state.[ii]

The immediate impact of this court decision is uncertainty and confusion regarding many aspects of pregnancy and reproductive health services not only for women but also for the “providers, pharmacies, practitioners, laboratories, genetic counselors, ambulatory surgery centers, storage facilities, transportation companies”[iii] and other related industries. Examples will follow shortly.

In the absence of clear, comprehensive, and well-drafted Federal legislation designed to address numerous legal issues and questions, each state will enact new laws to restrict, protect, or expand access to reproductive care services. Numerous legal challenges will result and take many years, if not decades, to resolve. The impact and uncertainty resulting from Dobbs is substantial.

The current situation in the fifty states – Massive confusion!

All fifty states plus the District of Columbia have laws governing access to abortion.[iv] Why is this important to reproductive health service providers? Here is why.

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) including IVF that bring together eggs and sperm outside the body to create an embryo have an uncertain legal status as to whether certain laws apply to the procedures or not.[v] Most state laws that regulate access to abortions often do not distinguish between conception that takes place within the womb or in the laboratory. If states draft or revise laws to define conception that takes place both within the womb and in the laboratory or if a court case rules that conception as intended by law includes conception in the laboratory, the impact would be extraordinary. ART embryos would be considered “conception” impacting their creation, storage, and destruction.