As she approached her sixth month of pregnancy last year, Whitney Watts' cervix had started to shorten. It's a common problem with twins. Watts was concerned, and was taking care not to overexert herself.
But it's probably fair to say her condition was far more frightening for Susan de Gruchy, the woman who had hired Watts to be a surrogate because she and her husband were unable to conceive. Nearly 400 miles away, de Gruchy was obsessed with worry.
These days it can take a village to create a child. Technology means someone who never thought they'd be able to conceive can use a sperm donor, an egg donor and a surrogate — a woman who bears a child for someone else. But the law has not kept pace with technology, and with so many people involved, a key question remains: Who is a legal parent?
Last year's GOP takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has dramatically changed the shape of the nation's abortion debate. It has also given a boost to an even more far-reaching effort: the push to legally redefine when life itself begins.
The question being raised in legal terms is: When does someone become a person?
The national birth rate fell 4 percent between 2007 and 2009 — more than it had in any two-year period in the past 30 years. With a national average of 66.7 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, nearly every demographic group had lower birth rates, with the sole exception being women over 40.
By age, the largest decline was 9 percent, among women between 20 and 24. Fertility rates among Hispanic women also dropped by 9 percent.