Prohibition on the Provision of Certain Intervening Medical Technology for Unmarried Women

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Prohibition on the Provision of Certain Intervening Medical Technology for Unmarried Women


By: Robert G. Marshall

Date: January 11, 2006

Source: Virginia Assembly. Prohibition on the Provision of Certain Intervening Medical Technology for Unmarried Women. 2005–2006 reg. sess. HB 187. Richmond. March 17, 2006. 〈〉 (accessed January 30, 2006).

About the Author: Robert G. Marshall is a delegate to the Virginia State Assembly from the thirteenth district. He is the patron, or author, of HB 187 and has served in the Virginia state legislature since 1992.


Federal regulation of reproductive information and technology began with the 1873 Comstock Law. That law, named for Postmaster General of the United States Anthony Comstock prohibited the distribution of materials related to reproduction, including pamphlets, books, newsletters, or contraceptive devices. Condoms, which were manufactured shortly after Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in the 1840s, were used in Europe and in high demand in countries such as France. By World War I, the European birthrate was half that of 1800, and American birthrates declined steadily as well.

The Comstock Law was repealed in 1936, but various laws regulating contraceptive devices remained on the books in many states. In the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court overturned an 1879 state law that banned the use of or aid in acquiring or using contraceptive devices and all such laws nationwide.

By the 1970s and 1980s, women in both the United States and Europe began, on average, to give birth at later and later ages. As a result, many women focused on college and career but postponed starting a family until their late thirties. In addition, research showing that men 's sperm count has decreased worldwide since 1938 pointed to another possible explanation for the infertility problems that plague approximately 10 percent of all couples of childbearing age.

Access to reproductive technologies—medical procedures that can assist infertile women conceive a child—began to be requested by single women who wished to conceive and raise a child without a male partner and by lesbian couples as well. Usually this involves the use of anonymous donor sperm and artificial insemination, or IVF for donor eggs, unless there is a specific, identified infertility issue. The nineteenth and early twentieth century debate over access to reproductive information and contraceptives thus shifted, in the twenty-first century, to access to reproductive technologies.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, of Virginia 's thirteenth district, filed the following bill to amend the Code of Virginia regarding unmarried women 's access to reproductive technologies.


                  HOUSE BILL NO. 187

              Offered January 11, 2006

               Prefiled January 2, 2006

A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 54.1-2403.4, relating to prohibition on the provision of certain intervening medical technology to unmarried women….

               Patron—Marshall, R.G.

Referred to Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 54.1-2403.4 as follows:

§54.1-2403.4. Prohibition on the provision of certain intervening medical technology for unmarried women.

No individual licensed by a health regulatory board shall assist with or perform any intervening medical technology, whether in vivo or in vitro, for or on an unmarried woman that completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception, including, but not limited to, artificial insemination by donor, cryopreservation of gametes and embryos, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, gamete intrafallopian tube transfer, and low tubal ovum transfer.


On the same day that Delegate Marshall proposed HB 187 he also proposed HB 412, titled "Gamete Donors; Anonymous Donations Thereof Prohibited in Medical Procedures," which "[p]rohibits the use of unrelated anonymous donor oocyte or sperm in the performance of intervening medical technology that completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as a means of conception and requires, notwithstanding any traditional practice, agreement, regulation, or law to the contrary, the identity of any unrelated oocyte or sperm donor to be noted in the health record of any woman patient" whenever the woman uses any form of reproductive technology for conception.

Taken together, the two bills restrict the rights of single women and gay couples while extending access to reproductive technologies to heterosexual married couples. Organizations such as Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia condemned Marshall's bills as assaults on women's rights and reproductive rights for all, including gay male couples who wish to have a child with the help of a surrogate mother.

Approximately 20 percent of all reproductive technology clinics refuse to treat single women; statistics on refusal rates for gay couples and individuals are not available. Each clinic sets its own policy concerning the patients it treats. In 2001, Guadalupe Benitez filed a lawsuit against a fertility clinic in California that refused to treat her and her lesbian partner; the doctors, both Christians, felt that working with Benitez would violate their personal beliefs. The lawsuit is pending as of March 2006 and has the careful attention of women 's rights groups, gay rights groups, and conservative religious groups.

Supporters of HB 187 point to a 2004 law in Italy that bans access to reproductive technologies to all but "stable heterosexual" couples as proof that other countries, concerned about the proliferation of children conceived without identified fathers who are involved in the child 's life, have passed legislation similar to the Virginia bill.

HB 187 was tabled indefinitely in committee on January 17, 2006, and will not be considered by the Virginia legislature for further action.



Inhorn, Marcia C., and Frank van Balen, eds. Infertility Around the Globe: New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender, and Reproductive Technologies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.


Stern, J. E., C. P. Cramer, A. Garrod, and R. M. Green. "Access to Services at Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinics: A Survey of Policies and Practices." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 184, no. 4 (March 2001).

Swan, Shanna H., Eric P. Elkin, and Laura Fenster. "Have Sperm Densities Declined? A Reanalysis of Global Trend Data." Environmental Health Perspectives 105, no. 11 (November 1997).

Web sites

Michigan State University Libraries. "What Every Girl Should Know" 〈〉 (accessed March 16, 2006).

Resolve. "Treatment Options for Non-Traditional Families." 〈〉 (accessed March 16, 2006).

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Prohibition on the Provision of Certain Intervening Medical Technology for Unmarried Women

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