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Georgia 'Octomom bill' would limit embryo implants

  • Story Highlights
  • Georgia state senator says bill was inspired by "Octomom" Nadya Suleman
  • Bill would limit women under 40 to two embryos, women 40 or older to three
  • Critics call it a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions in the state
  • Bill faces long odds of passing because of timing in Georgia legislature
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The tabloid-friendly tale of the California "Octomom" continues to stir debate -- this time 2,000 miles away in the Georgia state capitol, where lawmakers say they're trying to prevent a repeat.

Proposed legislation regulating in-vitro practices came after Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets.

Proposed legislation regulating in-vitro practices came after Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets.

A Georgia state senator introduced legislation to limit the number of embryos that can be implanted in a woman's uterus during in-vitro fertilization procedures.

Sen. Ralph Hudgens, a Republican from near Athens, Georgia, said his legislation was inspired by Nadya Suleman, the woman who said she gave birth to octuplets after being fertilized with six embryos -- an unusually high number.

"She is not married," said Hudgens. "She is unemployed, she is on government assistance and now she is going to put those 14 children on the back of the taxpayers in the state of California."

Suleman, 33, had six children before the procedure.

Hudgens' plan, which was co-sponsored by several other senators, would limit the number of embryos a doctor could implant to two for women under 40 years old and three for women 40 or older.

Those numbers are slightly less than what's considered the norm in medical circles.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends no more than two embryos for women under 35 years old and no more than five for women over 40. The reason for allowing more embryos in women over 40 is that it is more difficult for them to get pregnant.

State lawmakers in Missouri are considering a similar bill. And England and Italy have had similar limits on the books for years.

At least some fertility doctors say the limits in Hudgens' bill would hurt chances for women to get pregnant. They say that while three embryos are usually enough, there are special cases when they need more.

"What this bill will effectively do is shut us down," said Dr. Daniel Shapiro, a fertility doctor in Atlanta. "Patients seeking reproductive care in Georgia will go to Tennessee or South Carolina or Alabama. They will just leave."

Breaking the law would carry a fine of up to $1,000 under the legislation.

Some critics of the plan also see another problem, calling it a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions in the state.

The bill, which Hudgens titled the "Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act," contains language that says "a living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity."

The anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life issued a news release in support of the bill on the day it was introduced.

"Georgia Right to Life supports Sen. Hudgens in this legislation and wants to see strong protections in place to stop the dangerous practice of implanting more embryos than is medically recommended," the group said, saying the plan would help avoid premature births and low birth weight in in-vitro fertilization cases.

Realistically, the bill faces long odds of passing -- at least in the near future. Tuesday was Day 25 of the Georgia legislature's 40-day session. Legislators will meet 10 more days, then take a break until June, when lawmakers will consider how money flowing to the state from the federal economic-stimulus plan may help their ongoing budget woes.

According the the Georgia legislature's Web site on Tuesday, Hudgens' bill had been read and assigned to a committee, but no other action had taken place.

Some Georgians from the lawmaker's part of the state say they hope he has to keep waiting for a long time.

"Unless the senator is a physician, ethicist or other informed professional, he should step aside and let the medical professionals determine what is best in individual cases," Dorothy West wrote in a letter to the editor of the Athens Banner-Herald, Hudgens' hometown paper. "There are other issues more important to the citizens of Georgia that should be addressed."

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen and Doug Gross contributed to this report.

All About In Vitro FertilizationMedical EthicsChild DevelopmentPregnancy and ChildbirthGeorgiaMissouri

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