Home - Breaking News, Events, Things-To-Do, Dining, Nightlife


IVF heir bill heads to governor’s desk

A bill to correct an outdated law barring in vitro fertilization children from next of kin inheritance passed both chambers Wednesday afternoon and now heads to the governor to be signed into law. 

This is the fifth year Rep. Dana McLean, R-Columbus, filed the measure to give inheritance rights to children conceived via IVF after the death of one parent, as 27 other states have done. These bills died in the legislative process the last four years.

“What a relief … I am just so thrilled that after all this time we came to an agreement that will soon be law,” McLean said. “This will help countless families and children have the right to be able to receive these benefits as they should.”

McLean’s legislation was inspired by the personal story of one of her constituents, Katie Studdard, whose 5-year-old daughter has been denied social security benefits from her late biological father since birth. 

READ MORE: Five years later, this Mississippi mom is still fighting an outdated law blocking her child’s inheritance

“And that’s how a lot of bills that we end up sponsoring come to us – from stories, from an issue someone is having where we need to make adjustments to state law,” McLean said.

Rep. Dana McLean, right, sits in the House Chamber during the Legislative Session at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 7, 2024.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?fit=336%2C224&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?fit=780%2C521&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841.jpg?resize=780%2C521&ssl=1″ alt class=”wp-image-1112830″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C802&ssl=1 1200w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=336%2C224&ssl=1 336w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C513&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1026&ssl=1 1536w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1368&ssl=1 2048w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C684&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=600%2C400&ssl=1 600w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=1568%2C1047&ssl=1 1568w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=400%2C267&ssl=1 400w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?resize=706%2C472&ssl=1 706w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-scaled.jpg?w=2340&ssl=1 2340w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A2841-1200×802.jpg?w=370&ssl=1 370w” sizes=”(max-width: 780px) 100vw, 780px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>
Rep. Dana McLean, right, sits in the House Chamber during the Legislative Session at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 7, 2024. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Studdard, who lives in Columbus, started fertility treatments with her late husband, Chris McDill, before he died of cancer. She did not have success with the embryos while her husband was alive, but decided to continue trying for a baby after her husband’s death. She conceived her daughter Elyse a year after her husband died. 

House Bill 1542 passed the House unanimously in mid-March and overwhelmingly passed the Senate in mid-April at the eleventh hour. But the Senate passed it with a reverse repealer, referring it to conference in the hopes of expanding the bill beyond its original scope to protect in vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproduction, in the wake of recent events calling fertility treatments into question in Alabama. 

Ultimately, that was too big a task to take on at the end of the session, with pro-life groups coming out publicly to express concern about new language they didn’t have time to vet, explained Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall. Fillingane was one of the lawmakers tasked with debating the details of the bill in conference. 

House and Senate conferees reverted the bill back mostly to its original language and were able to achieve the primary goal of securing inheritance rights for posthumously-conceived children with the final version. In addition to that goal, Fillingane said, conferees were able to come up with a definition for “alternative reproduction,” which didn’t previously exist in Mississippi. 

“I think Chairman (Brice) Wiggins and Chairman (Joey) Hood (of the Judiciary A committee where the bill was assigned) thought … ‘let’s get this issue addressed for this family in Columbus that has waited (five) years … and let’s at least get a definition in place sort of as a starting point to build a framework out hopefully over the next sessions to add to protect the IVF procedures and processes and surrogacy,’” said Fillingane.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, speaks about a bill concerning Medicaid expansion at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 28, 2024.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?fit=336%2C228&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?fit=780%2C529&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045.jpg?resize=780%2C529&ssl=1″ alt class=”wp-image-1114155″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=1200%2C814&ssl=1 1200w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=336%2C228&ssl=1 336w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C521&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1042&ssl=1 1536w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1389&ssl=1 2048w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C695&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=1568%2C1064&ssl=1 1568w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=2000%2C1357&ssl=1 2000w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=400%2C271&ssl=1 400w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?resize=706%2C479&ssl=1 706w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-scaled.jpg?w=2340&ssl=1 2340w, https://i0.wp.com/mississippitoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/3X0A6045-1200×814.jpg?w=370&ssl=1 370w” sizes=”(max-width: 780px) 100vw, 780px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>
Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, speaks about a bill concerning Medicaid expansion at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Fillingane had two of his own children through surrogacy, but traveled to California to do so – because the state has clear statutory guidelines around parental rights in surrogacy cases. 

“I did not feel comfortable having my kids in Mississippi … there were absolutely no protections that the state of Mississippi offers for parents who have children this way. As a family lawyer, I was uniquely situated to see some of these things,” he said.

Senate Judiciary A Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, who was instrumental in getting the bill to the finish line, wasn’t available for comment. 

Although it’s been a trying few years, Studdard said she has a newfound appreciation for the Legislature. As a teacher, she has live streamed floor debates during her lunch period at school, has become acquainted with the legislative language of various iterations of the bill, and talked extensively with lawmakers. She says that every time she hears a new legislative word that she doesn’t know, she googles it.

“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I think anybody going through any life-changing event, like I did with (my husband’s) cancer, and then IVF, and now this bill …you gain a whole new appreciation and so much knowledge you never thought you’d know.”

Studdard is overjoyed that the Senate proposed naming the law after her late husband, Chris McDill, and is proud to model for her daughter and her students that it is possible for an everyday person to enact policy change. 

Primarily, she hopes the benefits her daughter will start receiving next year will go toward her future education.

“I just think this financially will create so much security for her and her education, that’s number one for me,” Studdard said. “I want her to not have to worry about taking out a student loan. I want her to have a good financial start to life when she goes to college. To be able to hand that to your child is a gift.”

When McLean first authored a bill to address Studdard’s predicament, it was the first year of her first four-year term. Now, it’s the first year of her second term, and she says it feels full circle. 

“When (Studdard) first told me about her little girl and being a single mom, at that time Elyse was just a baby, and it really hit home to me because I am also a single mother of a daughter, and I understood the significance of this and how we really need to protect children and women and mothers and families,” McLean reflected. “I felt like it was really something I could get behind.”

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

Local Dining Stream

Things To Do

Related articles