Alabama lawmakers look for IVF solutions as patients remain in limbo

Alabama lawmakers are looking for ways to protect in vitro fertilization after a state Supreme Court ruling said that frozen embryos are children.


National News

February 27, 2024 - 3:39 PM

Containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored in liquid nitrogen at a fertility clinic in Fort Myers, Fla. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, a ruling critics said could have sweeping implications for fertility treatments. Photo by AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers are looking for ways to protect in vitro fertilization services in the state as patients, who had procedures cancelled in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling, remained stalled in their hopes of parenthood.

The ruling, which raised immediate questions about what liability fertility clinics could face, had an immediate chilling effect on the availability of IVF in the Deep South state. Three providers announced a pause on services in the days after the decision.

Justices this month said three couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident at a storage facility could pursue wrongful death claims for their “extrauterine children.” Justices cited the wording of the wrongful death law and sweeping language that the GOP-controlled Legislature and voters added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018 that it is state policy to recognize the “rights of the unborn child.”

Former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones put the blame on Republicans who “pander to get elected and they don’t see the consequences, the long-term possibilities of what they’re creating.” He said Republicans pushed the language in the Constitution as a “political statement” against abortion during an election year, and now people’s lives are being effected.

“These people have been pandering to the far right for votes for years never ever thinking about what they are doing or saying or the lives they will affect,” Jones said.

Alabama legislators are working on proposals to try to remove the uncertainties for clinics. The bills are expected to be debated this week.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday that she anticipates having a “bill on my desk very shortly while ensuring that the Legislature has time to get this right.”

“In Alabama, as I said last week, we work to foster a culture of life and that includes IVF. The Legislature is diligently working on addressing this issue as we speak,” Ivey said Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels last week introduced a bill that a fertilized human egg or human embryo outside of a uterus “is not considered an unborn child or human being for any purpose under state law.” Republican Sen. Tim Melson is working on similar legislation.

Daniels said the ruling has had a devastating impact on couples who had IVF procedures canceled.

“We have to act immediately and put politics to the side and address this issue, restoring the rights and decisions back to women and their doctors, not politicians,” Daniels said.

Lawmakers are also facing pushback from conservative and anti-abortion groups.

Eagle Forum of Alabama issued a statement urging lawmakers to “avoid hasty or ill-informed legislation that may be in direct violation of our Constitution as well as the clear definition of human life.”

“Life begins at conception, not implantation,” Eagle Forum stated.

Eric Johnston, president of Alabama’s Pro-Life Coalition and a lawyer who helped draft Alabama’s anti-abortion laws, said they support legislation to remove the civil lawsuit threat for the clinics and make IVF services available again.

But he said they also want would some type of regulation on what could happens to unused embryos. He suggested a requirement that unwanted embryos could be put up for adoption instead of being destroyed or donated for research.

“These embryos, they grow in a petri dish separate for some period of time. It’s sort of the same thing as being in utero,” Johnston said.

March 1, 2024
February 23, 2024
February 22, 2024
February 21, 2024