Major Alabama hospital pauses IVF after court rules frozen embryos are children

IVF Appointments made months in advance cancelled today, forecast is continued decreasing birth rates in Alabama.

The BBC reports: “The southern US state’s largest hospital has paused its in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) services in the wake of the decision, over fears it could expose them to criminal prosecution.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said it would continue retrieving eggs from women’s ovaries. But it said it would halt the next step in the IVF process, in which the eggs are fertilised with sperm before being implanted into the uterus.”

Background: Why was this lawsuit before the Alabama Supreme Court?

The case stems from a wrongful death lawsuit brought by three couples whose embryos were lost at a fertility clinic in 2020.

A patient had wandered into the place where the embryos were stored, handled them, and accidentally dropped them. As a result, the embryos were destroyed. The couples sought to sue the Center for Reproductive Medicine and the Mobile Infirmary Association under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. That law covers foetuses, but did not specifically cover embryos resulting from IVF. A lower court had ruled that the embryos did not qualify as a person or child, and that a wrongful death lawsuit could not move forward. But in its ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court sided with the couples, and ruled that frozen embryos were considered “children”. The wrongful death law applied to “all unborn children, regardless of their location”, the decision said. Concurring with the majority opinion, Chief Justice Tom Parker wrote: “Even before birth, all human beings have the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.” (BBC)

“No court — anywhere in the country — has reached the conclusion the main opinion reaches,” Justice Greg Cook wrote in his dissenting opinion in the case, adding that it “almost certainly ends the creation of frozen embryos through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Alabama.”. . . .Abortion rights groups and IVF advocates have been warning about the possibility since before the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and as Republican-led states passed new abortion restrictions in its wake. The Alabama decision cited language added to the state constitution in 2018, which says “it is the public policy of this state to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.”

About 1 in 5 people are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent survey found 42% of American adult say they have used, or know someone who has used, fertility treatments. “This ruling poses a threat to embryologists, fertility doctors, lab technicians and all fertility healthcare providers in Alabama,” Mitrani said. “The local medical professionals will be exposed to unforeseen consequences due to this ruling, when trying to help their patients.” (CBS)

Nikki Haley agrees and contradicts herself, must be a day that ends in Y. . . .

Per the New York Times opinion piece by Charles Bow today, “The idea is absurd and unscientific. It is instead tied to a religious crusade to downgrade the personhood of women by conferring personhood on frozen embryos.

I called Sean Tipton, the chief advocacy and policy officer at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, who told me: “One of the points in the abortion debate is, ‘Is it really about abortion or is it about controlling women and controlling sex?’ And this clearly exposes the idea that it’s not just about abortion.” He said, “There is no more pro-life medical treatment available, ever, than in vitro fertilization, and this decision clearly threatens the ability for that to continue.”

Control of women’s bodies is the endgame. And some religious conservatives won’t stop until that goal is achieved. For that reason, intervening victories — like the overturning of Roe v. Wade — will never be seen as enough; they will only intensify a blinding sense of righteousness.”

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