HONOLULU (KHON2) — Last Friday the Supreme Court revoked constitutional protections for an abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade.

In 1973 Roe v. Wade was passed and provided a constitutional right to abortion. However, with it being overturned the new ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

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Many Hawaii officials have come out saying they will continue to protect the right to an abortion for their residents and those seeking care in the state.

However, one thing that is still unclear and will unravel in time is how banning abortion will hurt couples going through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Hawaii.

IVF has become a common process nationwide and here in Hawaii. Couples struggling to conceive, same-sex couples and parents wanting to expand their families use IVF to successfully get pregnant. 

IVF is a very complex and time-consuming series of procedures to help with fertility or prevent genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child. 

During an IVF cycle, mature eggs are collected or retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. 
The fertilized eggs called embryos are then transferred to a uterus. A full cycle of IVF takes weeks. 

John Frattarelli is the Medical Practice and Laboratory Director at the Fertility Institute of Hawaii. He said now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, he is anticipating their clinic having some changes.

“In Hawaii, we don’t expect to have a large impact, except when we are shipping or maybe receiving, you know, embryos,” said Frattarelli. “What we’ll have to do is discuss it with the clinic that, where we’re sending the embryos and see what legally they can do.”

During one IVF cycle numerous eggs get developed in each of the ovaries. When the eggs are extracted and fertilized into embryos some states can now consider that life. 

“It might be a situation where if a couple or a patient has five or six embryos frozen with us here, that maybe they only ship or send one at a time, because if they ship three, for instance, and they use one and get pregnant, they still have two left in that state that doesn’t allow them to discard the embryos or do anything else with the embryos.” said Frattarelli. “Then they, they might be stuck.”

Why should Hawaii couples care?

Having excess embryos is common when couples go through IVF cycles. He said couples will most likely choose to freeze the embryos and decide if they want to expand their family later. 

What makes the new ruling difficult is if a state makes it illegal to freeze or discard extra embryos, couples will either cancel that cycle, or put all embryos in the uterus.

Putting multiple embryos in the uterus can be dangerous for their development and the mother’s health. 

For some families wanting to expand their families it might take two or three IVF cycles to conceive. If you start a cycle in Hawaii but move to the mainland and wish to continue the process, you might not be able to. 

Because Hawaii has a large military population couples come and go throughout the years. This could speed up the process on when some families want to save up the money to do IVF if it’s their only option.

That’s because many careers move and transfer their employees with little warning and if a couple is going through an IVF cycle that might impact their window to conceiving quickly. 

Moving embryos around the world is very common for many couples. Frattarelli said they currently have more than one thousand specimens and ship or receive dozens of frozen embryos or sperm throughout the week. 

“International patients in New Zealand, Australia, Australia, Japan and Korea will fly here for fertility treatments that they can’t receive there in their country,” said Frattarelli.

Frattarelli said last year there were more than 300,000 IVF cycles done in the United States and about 100,000 babies from IVF. 

He said right now they are getting a few questions from some of their clients if Roe v. Wade being overturned will impact them in Hawaii. He said the short answer is no if you plan on doing all your IVF cycles in Hawaii. 

“We’ll have those conversations as we need to and as it comes up, you know,” said Frattarelli. “So, we’re going to have to look at how a state defines an embryo and how they define an abortion.”

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In legal terms he is talking about life happening at conception, fertilization or implantation.