‘Life at conception’ act reintroduced in Congress as Republicans control the House

Anti-abortion advocates say the bill is common sense. Abortion rights activists believe it is a gateway for restricting contraception & IVF.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:56 AM HST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As Republicans take control of the U.S. House, anti-abortion measures are among their top priorities.

For Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W. Va.) he sees the new House majority as an opportunity to reintroduce and pass his ‘Life at Conception’ act. The bill seeks to “implement equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.”

“It’s an obvious fact, it’s a biological fact, that we establish personhood at the moment of conception. And then, the states can decide how to regulate the enforcement of protecting life because it’s a state issue to enforce,” Mooney said.

Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discussed the science behind the stage of conception in pregnancy.

“At the moment of conception, or what we call in science as fertilization, it’s not actually an embryo yet. It’s what’s called a blastocyst, which is just a few small cells, because the way that ultimately human beings develop is through a rapid division of the cells. And, the embryo stage doesn’t start until a couple weeks later,” she said.

The Mayo Clinic explains further on its website. It says, “three days after fertilization, a normally developing embryo will contain about six to 10 cells. By the fifth or sixth day, the fertilized egg is known as a blastocyst — a rapidly dividing ball of cells. The inner group of cells will become the embryo. The outer group will become the cells that nourish and protect it.”

Rep. Mooney believes with a Republican majority in the House his bill can pass. But in the Democratic-controlled Senate, lawmakers have already vowed to block any anti-abortion measure.

“This is a clear message to women from MAGA Republicans to women across the country. Your body, their choice. Womens’ bodies. MAGA republicans choice,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Senate Majority Leader) at a rally with lawmakers outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America attended that same rally.

Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL, sees Mooney’s bill as a slippery slope.

“I think life starts at conception is a line that’s used by extremist right-wing folks to really attack issues like contraception and even fertility treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilization). So, look, we know that that’s not based on science. However, that rhetoric is used to go after a much broader range of reproductive rights and services. So it’s really important that Americans understand what that’s code for. That’s code for going after your fundamental, basic, everyday medication like birth control. It’s code for going after something that we know more and more American women rely on to expand their families and to have children, which is IVF. It’s very dangerous. And we’re going to do everything we can to block any efforts at legislation that tries to do that,” said Timmaraju.

However, Mooney said his bill doesn’t mention contraception. He said it would be up to states to determine how to enforce the measure.

“My legislation just protects human life. It doesn’t deal with contraceptions. And again, it’s up to the states. My legislation simply empowers the states to enforce and regulate the abortion methods that are often used. But, it would define personhood at the moment of conception. It doesn’t get into contraception,” he said.

The debate over abortion rights is expected to continue to be a top issue into the 2024 elections.

That’s when Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W. Va.) plans to run for the Senate seat currently held by democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Last year, a Pew Research Center poll found 62% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Sunday would have marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion. That right was overturned by the Supreme Court last summer and the discussion was returned back to the states.