HB 1890: a perfect storm of cluelessness and cruelty

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

If you spend time on social media (my condolences), you’ve probably seen a lot of heat about a proposed Ohio law that would force women with ectopic pregnancies have their embryos/zygotes reimplanted.

Whatever your views on on abortion, this is scientifically impossible — no one ends an ectopic pregnancy as a form of birth control, but literally as a life-saving measure. Forcing reimplanting of such embryos/zygotes isn’t pro-life (without doubt it represents additional risk to the woman) it is pro-ignorance.

While wondering whether Ohio would be facing massive boycotts and protests, I was a little bit thankful that my own state, Pennsylvania, hasn’t tried to do anything this stupid and ignorant.

Except, Pennsylvania and my own State Representative, essentially said to Ohio:

“Hold my beer.”

Which brings us to HB 1890.

Sponsored by, among others, State Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-160), my local State Rep., who thankfully is planning to retire after 2020, and who represents parts of the Unionville and Kennett areas, along with portions of Delaware County.

This epically stupid, willfully ignorant and completely non-scientific bill calls for death certificates to be issued for all fertilized eggs — all — that don’t make it to term. And yes, I read the bill, a copy of it sits on my desk as I write.

Undoubtedly, the idea behind this was to make abortion that much more painful, expensive and complicated for women and doctors. It is an act of deliberate political cruelty, which is bad enough.

But because the bill is so broadly written — and obviously backed by 19 state house members whose science education equals that of a Corgi — it seems to require a death certificate for any and all fertilized zygotes/embryos.


Sidestepping the obvious legal issue of how one issues a death certificate for someone without a birth certificate, the science and practicality issues with this bill boggle the mind.

Slipping on my “Mike, The Science A-Hole” lab coat (with profound apologies to Bill Nye):

Fun facts about fertilized human eggs (all of which I learned as the parent of IVF twins, now in college):

First off: in normal biology, fertilized eggs only implant about 50% of the time. Based on the newest stats I could find (2017), that would mean roughly 137,000 non-implanted eggs in a given year here in Pennsylvania (maybe a tad less, as the birth rate in the state has declined for more than a generation).

Ah, but how would women know if their uterus flushed out a fertilized egg during a normal menstrual cycle?

There’s literally no way, essentially turning more than hundred thousand women in Pennsylvania into unknowing criminals for the crime of having sex.


But let’s look at situations where we do know about a fertilized egg not implanting in the uterus to start a potentially viable pregnancy.

One circumstance is the ectopic pregnancy (as noted above in the Ohio bill), where a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube (the passage through which eggs usually transit from the ovaries to the uterus). Such pregnancies are non-viable and life-threatening. This is already a traumatic experience, insisting on a death certificate and “burial” of cellular remains is a cruel and needless burden for women in crisis.

The second obvious category: women undergoing In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Many women who desperately want children go through multiple cycles of IVF with the hope of getting pregnant. While my wife and I were very, very lucky, I know many others who went through the arduous process, only to see it fail, multiple times. Is it fair to demand that the disappointment and sorrow of failing be compounded by insisting on death certificates and “burial” of a single-cell mass (literally impossible)?

A third, and potentially even crueler category, women hoping to carry to full term, yet miscarrying. Miscarriages can come at any time, and can be little more than a small, bloody mass of cells. Are women expected to preserve this, file a death certificate and “bury” or cremate it?

In a moment of heartbreak, this is needlessly cruel, which of course, is the point.

Slipping off the lab coat and donning my political fedora:

This also amounts to a massive sex tax on women. Yup, all other issues aside, women (and their partners, maybe) will be forced to shoulder the death certificate filing costs ($20, raised from $9 a couple of years back), plus “burial” or “cremation” costs, which will likely be much more.

So, a group of alleged “anti-tax” state house members support what is essentially a massive, gender-based tax hike for the most vulnerable?

To recap, HB1890 is cruel, the science behind it is idiotic and it is effectively a sex tax on women.

There’s literally a thousand other reasons why this is an awful idea — and one destined to die with a veto on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk (Wolf has confirmed this week that he will veto any anti-choice bill, specifically citing HB1890).

But it underlines the extremism required to satisfy an increasingly radical right-wing lunatic fringe. What’s next, bills requiring stoning for unmarried women who have sex?

All 19 sponsors of this bill should be ashamed of themselves for lacking the basic decency required as a public servant. All have shown themselves undeserving of the public trust.

And maybe that’s the saddest thing of all. 

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