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For Immediate Release: March 3rd, 2009
Contact:  Marcy Darnovsky, 510-625-0819, x305, mdarnovsky[AT]geneticsandsociety[DOT]org

Public interest group calls for Congressional hearings on fertility industry

In wake of octuplets and “designer babies” controversies, Center for Genetics and Society says oversight is overdue

Congress should hold hearings on oversight of the unregulated $3 billion assisted reproduction industry, said the Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest organization.

“For too long, America has had an unfortunate reputation as the ‘Wild West’ of the fertility industry – and that image has been reinforced by recent controversies,” said Marcy Darnovsky, the Center’s associate executive director. “Federal regulation and oversight are needed, and Congress should take the first step by holding hearings.”

Last month, it was revealed that the fertility doctor involved with the recent birth of octuplets violated the industry’s guidelines regarding the number of embryos that should be transferred into a woman’s body. Media reports later concluded that only 20% of fertility clinics follow these guidelines.

In addition, a leading fertility specialist began advertising the use of genetic selection for hair color, eye color, and complexion.

“Essentially every other industrialized country has more oversight of their fertility industries than the US does,” noted Jesse Reynolds, a policy analyst at the Center who has compiled laws about assisted reproduction in an online database. “States are beginning to respond, but these proposed laws vary widely. At best they will result in a cumbersome patchwork.”

In contrast to other industrialized countries, the United States relies on voluntary guidelines established by the industry organization, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. But their guidelines are routinely flouted, and the ASRM does not effectively sanction violators.

The federal government requires only that clinics’ success rates be reported.

“We need carefully crafted policies that don’t infringe on reproductive rights, and that bring responsible regulation to the baby business,” added Darnovsky. “In fact, surveys show that large majorities oppose the creation and marketing of so-called ‘designer babies.’”

The Center for Genetics and Society is a non-profit public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive biotechnologies.

The Center’s compilation of country-level policies on assisted reproductive technologies can be found in the BiopolicyWiki.


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