AUSTIN (KXAN) — A jar of syringes, needles and pill bottles sits on a shelf in Stephanie Gilbert’s nursery.
“This is egg retrieval, first transfer, second transfer,” she says, pointing to the jar.
There’s also a calendar book; each slot of each day filled with medications.
They’re all part of her in vitro fertilization journey, which comes to a head any day now.
“For someone who was told you’re never going to have a child naturally, it was really unexplainable. It was amazing,” said Gilbert, a patient at the Austin Fertility Institute. “And it still is…A couple days away and like, ridiculously excited about this.”
Baby Gilbert is due any day now.
“Medication pills, financial woes, all of the things, but I feel like this is the greatest joy of my life; is to actually be given the gift of becoming a mother and my husband, you know, being able to become a dad,” she said.
But Gilbert, who is a host on KXAN’s lifestyle show Studio 512, isn’t sure about what the overturning of Roe v. Wade might mean for her; three of her embryos weren’t viable and are still frozen.
“Would I, you know, be forced to actually have them transferred? Do I have to carry them?” she wondered.
Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, medical director and managing partner at the Texas Fertility Center, said to his knowledge, it hasn’t been discussed or decided what to do in specialized cases when doctors might need to discard an embryo due to a disease or chromosomal abnormality.
“There’s been no regulation ruling or anything on prohibiting our ability to discard that embryo, that embryo has essentially a 0.0% chance of survival,” he said, adding that couples can opt not to transfer the embryo. “It’s not aborting a pregnancy if you never create a pregnancy.”
As the on-call doctor at the Texas Fertility Clinic over the weekend, Dr. Silverberg got dozens of questions from patients.
“Of the 75, 80 patients I saw this weekend… Over half of them asked me questions, some of them quite hysterically, about what do they do now? Because they’re not going to be able to do IVF,” Dr. Silverberg said.
He said as far as they understand, that’s incorrect; in vitro fertilization should not be affected by Roe v. Wade being overturned and Texas’ subsequent trigger law going into effect.
“There is no prohibition on stimulating a woman’s ovaries to make eggs. There is no prohibition against getting eggs out. There’s no prohibition against getting sperm from the male. There’s no prohibition about injecting or inseminating eggs with sperm. There’s no prohibition against growing embryos in the laboratory. There’s no prohibition against biopsying embryos to determine if they’ve got a genetic disease or chromosomal disease. There’s no prohibition about freezing embryos, there’s no prohibition about transferring embryos,” Silverberg listed. “So, those are the steps that we do. And not a single step is affected by this.”
Silverberg said fertility leaders started meeting with attorneys to discuss this last month, when the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling was leaked.
But now it’s about making sure that policymakers, prosecutors and law enforcement officials are on the same page.
“One of the dark clouds potentially on the horizon is knee-jerk reactions without the knowledge that is necessary to make the appropriate, correct decision,” he said.
He said he doesn’t want to end up in court, for example, facing a lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General.
“I have a very strong desire to work with our representatives in Congress to make sure that it never gets to that point, that we talk these issues through that when laws in states are codified, there is an understanding,” he said.
Silverberg said they’re already reaching out to elected officials. They’re also working on putting a statement online to calm worried patients, like the one that’s already on their laboratory’s website, Ovation Fertility.
“According to most experts in the industry, it does not appear that any of the current laws are intended to limit IVF. However, we are working closely with our colleagues at ASRM and RESOLVE to monitor any state activities or laws that would characterize embryos in a way that would limit IVF, freezing, storage and related fertility services.
We will also work very closely with our physicians, clinical experts and legal team to modify any practices to ensure legal compliance, as legal compliance and patient rights are key principles for Ovation.
These times do create uncertainty. However, for now, and until we learn more, we are staying the course of providing outstanding reproductive services to our patients. As we learn more, we will keep you informed of any changes and share updates as they become available.”Ovation Fertility
“If, God forbid, we need to panic in the future, there’s ample time to panic in the future. But for now, it’s absolutely business as usual,” Silverberg said.
Gilbert doesn’t know what the ruling might mean for a possible child number two.
“A lot of concerns, a lot of questions, a lot of heartache for people who are just starting their IVF journey who have no idea what might come of this,” she said. “It will be a factor in us deciding if we’re even able to go through the process for baby number two.”
But for now, she and her husband are prepared for number one.
“A joy-filled home with two parents who obviously fought as hard as they could and did whatever they could to bring them into this world,” she said.