The uncertain future of fertility treatment is an ‘unintended consequence’ of the reversal of Roe

June 30, 2022, 1:23 PM UTC
Ivan Couronee—AFP/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Finland and Sweden are officially invited to join NATO, Bed Bath and Beyond has appointed its second female CEO, and the uncertain future of IVF is a casualty of abortion bans.

Today’s guest essay comes to us from Fortune senior editor Beth Kowitt. Beth has been covering the impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade on the fertility industry. It’s an ‘unintended consequence’ of abortion bans, but one with serious effects. Read her piece below:

– ‘Unintended consequence.’ As the antiabortion movement has waged its battle against women’s reproductive health, one segment of care has historically been off limits: fertility treatment.

That is until last week when the Supreme Court handed down its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. At issue are the trigger laws in 13 states that are set to ban abortion in the wake of the court’s decision—especially those that end up doing so by giving rights and protections to embryos. Health care professionals and legal experts say those statutes could unleash a period of uncertainty in the fertility world with the potential to change treatment and care. “There’s a great deal of angst in the community,” says Sean Tipton, chief advocacy, policy, and development officer at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

There are more than 1 million frozen embryos in storage in the U.S., and the court’s ruling raises a whole host of questions for those that reside in red states: Will there be limits on the number of embryos doctors can create during IVF? Will patients be forced to donate or implant their embryos? Will disposing of embryos suddenly become a criminal act? “Those are the kinds of nightmare scenarios that people are concerned about,” Dena Sharp, a partner at Girard Sharp who focuses on IVF-related cases, told me.

Industry insiders I spoke with described the impact of these trigger laws as inflicting “unintended consequences” on fertility care. “I don’t think these laws are really meant to target IVF, but the clumsiness of the language is what we’re expecting to be problematic,” says Jaime Shamonki, chief medical officer of Generate Life Sciences, which stores and transports embryos. Tipton of ASRM told me that there are elements of the anti-abortion movement that do oppose IVF. But he says that for the most part, they just want to stop abortion and have no problem throwing fertility treatment “under the bus on the way.”

The antiabortion movement has typically stayed away from attempts to regulate assisted reproductive technology because “everyone knows someone who’s done IVF,” as one fertility doctor told me. (They also probably know someone who’s had an abortion, but that’s a story for another day.) Kimberly Mutcherson, a dean of Rutgers Law School, says that fertility treatment has not been made a point of focus by these groups because of who the typical patient is: upper class, white, heterosexual. “There has been a sense that they are a more powerful group in lots of ways,” she says. It’s also worth noting that requiring fertility patients to travel to IVF-friendly states for treatment will further increase the gap in access to care, which is already out of reach for many. The average IVF baby costs $40,000 to $60,000.

Until now, fertility doctors have been able to stay out of the abortion debate. “This is an area that the industry hasn’t waded into,” says Seema Mohapatra, a professor of health law at Southern Methodist University’s law school. “It’s been very hesitant to be aligned or associated with abortion rights.” But that could change, with this current moment being one for coalition building. “That’s what I’m hoping for,” she says.

Fortune is gathering candidates for its 2022 Change the World list, which features companies that are doing well by doing good. These companies use the creative tools of business to help the planet and tackle society’s unmet needs—and they’re earning a profit while doing so. Last year’s honorees can be seen here. The deadline for applications this year is Friday, July 29, readers can nominate companies here. Reach out to for questions about the process.

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- Stepping in. Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton is stepping down from the home goods retailer. Board member Sue Gove will serve as interim CEO in his place, making her the second woman to lead the company, after Mary Winston who stepped in for about six months in 2019. Tritton was criticized by activist investor and GameStop chairman Ryan Cohen over his $27 million salary and “overly ambitious” strategy amid a sales slump. Reuters

- Tabled sale. Walgreens Boots Alliance is abandoning the sale of its Boots drugstore chain. The health care giant was in talks with multiple buyers to sell the chain but ultimately said an insatiable market led to failure to secure a desired valuation of the U.K.-based chain. “Longer term, we will stay open to all opportunities to maximize shareholder value for these businesses and across our company,” CEO Roz Brewer said in a statement on Tuesday. Bloomberg

- Officially retired. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has informed the White House that he will officially retire from his position on Thursday at noon ET. In his letter, he wrote to President Joe Biden that it was his "great honor" to participate as a judge and that his successor, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is prepared to "take the prescribed oaths" and assume her role as the 116th member of the court. CNN

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: DoorDash has hired Pinky Cole, owner and founder of vegan hamburger chain Slutty Vegan, as chief restaurant advisor. New York Road Runners has appointed Xylem Projects founder and CEO Nnenna Lynch as the next chairwoman of its board of directors. Former Instagram lead product manager Yue Zhao has joined pet healthcare platform Fuzzy as chief product officer.


- The fight aheadIn an interview with NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris said those who support antiabortion rights need to channel their disappointment into action ahead of the November midterm elections. Harris acknowledged the feelings of disillusioned Democratic voters but urged them to stick together and help elect the majority required to codify abortion rights in Congress. "There is no daylight among us who understand the seriousness of this moment and the real consequence to millions of women, and those who love them, around the country," Harris told Khalid. "Now the question becomes, what can we do?" NPR

- Lengthy sentence. Singer R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday, a higher sentence than the 25 years recommended by federal prosecutors. He was found guilty last September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, a federal law criminalizing sex trafficking. At his trial, 11 of his survivors testified about the emotional, physical, verbal, and sexual abuse he subjected them to. Many of his survivors were teenagers when the abuse began, which sometimes lasted for years. BuzzFeed

- Academy invitations. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the professional organization behind the Oscars award ceremony, announced Tuesday it invited 397 members to join the organization. Invitees include recent Oscar winners Billie Eilish and Ariana DeBose, and Disney general entertainment chief Dana Walden. According to the academy, 44% of invitees this year are women, 37% are non-white and 50% are non-Americans. Hollywood Reporter

- Shortage woes. Staffing struggles at P&G’s Auburn, Maine plant may be worsening its efforts to address a national tampon shortage. The plant is the sole producer of Tampax, P&G’s tampon brand and the No. 1 tampon brand in the U.S. The increase in demand has made it difficult to keep the facility well-staffed, despite offering a starting wage of $25, 15 paid vacation days and 12 holidays, health insurance, and a free fitness center. Bloomberg


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Brittney Griner is still locked up, and our tweets and T-shirts can’t free her Washington Post


"I think we should put big billboards up in every airport where people arrive from other countries saying, 'Welcome to the only democracy in the world that doesn’t include women.' Maybe that would embarrass people into action."

-Gloria Steinem on the years-long struggle to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratified in the U.S. Constitution.

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