Top fertility doctors oppose Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, warning it could threaten access to IVF, contraception, and abortion

  • The editors of Fertility and Sterility published a letter opposing the seating of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
  • Barrett's belief that life begins at fertilization could lead her to rule against access to contraception and safe fertility treatments.
  • Medical journals have recently been commenting on political issues when they believe there is a threat to public health.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Leading fertility doctors spoke out against the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, calling it "an undoing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's progress and an enduring step backwards for womens' individual liberty."

The doctors published their dissent in Fertility and Sterility, a leading fertility journal of which they are editors. This is the first time in the journal's 70-year history that it has published a statement on the seating of a Supreme Court justice.

Eve Feinberg, MD, an associate editor of Fertility and Sterility and co-author of the letter, said she worries that Barrett would oppose certain forms of contraception and complicate access to in vitro fertilization based on her personal belief that life begins at fertilization.

Barrett could also play a role in overturning the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which protected not only a woman's right to choose, but also a patient's right to privacy, Feinberg said. On day two of Barrett's confirmation hearing, she declined to share her stance on Roe v. Wade, although she said the ruling is not a "super precedent," meaning that it could be vulnerable to being overturned in the future.

"As we are getting more conservative administration and more conservatives on the Supreme Court, that infringement on privacy and on the physician-patient relationship is threatening our ability as physicians to care for our patients," Feinberg said. "And quite honestly, it's threatening as a woman to not have choice over our bodies."

Barrett has opposed reproductive rights

In public record, Barrett has been unequivocally anti-choice. In 2006, she was one of hundreds to sign an anti-abortion advertisement published in the South Bend Tribune. She also signed a letter opposing access to contraception as covered by the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Feinberg said Barrett's beliefs could pose a threat not only to the right to terminate pregnancy, but also to the right to prevent pregnancy and the right to safe fertility treatments.

"What Barrett has shown us is that she's a fierce defender of human life beginning at fertilization and the implications for that extend far beyond just birth control," Feinberg said.

She has taken issue with IVF

If seated on the Supreme Court, Barrett could endanger access to in vitro fertilization as we know it. She has supported anti-choice groups that seek to criminalize discarding embryos, which is currently a standard part of the fertility procedure.

Typically, IVF doctors will fertilize multiple eggs in a lab, then implant the embryo(s) that are most likely to take, discarding extra embryos or those that have markers for genetic diseases.

"A lot of our success with in vitro fertilization has really been in the absence of government restrictions," Feinberg said. "I would argue it's more pro-life to have healthier babies and healthier mothers."

The letter comes at a time when medical societies are speaking up about political issues

Jane van Dis, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist, called the Fertility and Sterility letter "an unprecedented move" in a tweet on Monday. This is the first such move in reproductive health, but it follows a trend of medical journals and societies speaking out about political threats to health.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an editorial, "Dying in a Leadership Vacuum," which condemned the US government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"That was pretty unprecedented to have a very widely regarded scientific journal speak up," Feinberg said. "And I think that gave our journal, Fertility and Sterility, much more confidence to be able to speak up about political issues, and not just medicine and science."

Feinberg said in an ideal world, medical journals wouldn't have to comment on political issues. "Politics would be politics and medicine would be medicine," she said, but that also means the government wouldn't have a say in decisions made between physicians and patients. 

But that's not currently the case, van Dis told Insider.

"Contraception is healthcare, and when politicians make laws preventing women from accessing contraception, that's a public health crisis, as is limiting access to abortion and infertility services," van Dis said.

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