Would you expect a firefighter to run into a burning building to save a frozen embryo?

An embryologist is seen at work on June 12, 2019, at the Virginia Center for Reproductive Medicine in Reston, Virginia. Freezing your eggs, getting pregnant after age 50, choosing the sex of the baby: When it comes to in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive procedures in the United States, expectant parents are spoiled for choice. This is not the case in many other countries, including France, which hopes to pass legislation allowing single women and lesbian couples to benefit from these technologies for the first time. (Photo by Ivan Couronne / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Ivan COURONNE, In the US, relaxed IVF laws help would-be parents achieve dreams (photo credit should be IVAN COURONNE/AFP/Getty Images)

Would you expect a firefighter to run into a burning building to save a frozen embryo?

Op-ed, Abortion

Robin Abcarian

February 21, 2024

The bizarre decision handed down last week by the Alabama Supreme Court, which ruled that frozen human embryos are also people, is the reductio ad absurdum of the anti-abortion movements’ religious worship of the union of egg and sperm.

The court ruled that Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which took effect in 1872, long before assisted reproductive technology, let alone frozen embryos, were still a gleam in everyone’s eye, applies to all unborn children regardless of their location .

The statement is, in a word, ridiculous. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way. As one of the Alabama judges put it in partial dissent: Equating an embryo stored in a specialized freezer with a fetus inside a mother is an exercise in results-oriented, intellectual fallacies, which I am not willing to entertain.

What exactly,


a frozen embryo? It is a small blob of undifferentiated cells. Some fertility centers freeze them a day after fertilization and some wait five or six days for them to become blastocysts.

what could be

Organisms with 200 to 300 cells. By any normal definition, these blobs are not children, even though that is how the Alabama Supreme Court justices have defined them in their opinions and agreements.

The justices also cited Alabama’s Sanctity of Unborn Life Act, a constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly passed by state voters in 2018. Voters rightly expected that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon see Roe v. Wade would reject and allow states to ban abortion. When the Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs case in 2022, Alabama immediately criminalized abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Today, there are no abortion clinics operating in the state.

The case at hand involves three couples who filed a civil lawsuit against a Mobile, Ala., fertility clinic, the Center for Reproductive Medicine, after their embryos were accidentally destroyed in December 2020 by one of the clinic’s patients. How that came about is almost as hard to believe as the court’s ruling.

According to court records, a patient managed to walk into the Center’s fertility clinic through an unsecured doorway. The patient then entered the cryogenic nursery and removed several embryos. The freezing temperatures at which the embryos were stored burned the patient’s hand, causing the patient to drop the embryos on the floor, killing them.

At this point you’re probably wondering, like me, why this errant patient hasn’t been arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter? I mean, if a frozen embryo is a legally protected minor child, and all unborn life is sacred, why on earth would the state of Alabama allow this accidental murderer to walk free?

In his ruling for the majority, Judge Jay Mitchell mentioned this issue, but expressed no opinion on it. He merely acknowledged that the fertility center defendants argued in oral arguments that individuals cannot be convicted of murder for causing the death of extrauterine embryos, but since the center does not

look for problems

in the lower court we will not attempt to resolve them here.

Another absurd contradiction in this case: All three families of Fondes, LePages and Aysennes signed contracts with the fertility center with instructions on how their frozen embryos were to be handled. Their embryonic children, Mitchell wrote, were in many ways treated as non-human property.

The Fondes, he wrote, agreed to let the center automatically destroy embryos that remained frozen for more than five years. The LePages chose to donate unused embryos to medical research. The Aysennes agreed to experiment with any abnormal embryos for research purposes and then discard them.


Can someone please explain to me how frozen embryos are legally human, but can be experimented on or thrown away when they are no longer wanted? None of this makes any sense.

Many rightly fear that in vitro fertilization, in which egg and sperm meet in a petri dish before being implanted into a human uterus, will be inferior in places like Alabama. Fertility centers will face too much legal jeopardy and too much uncertainty. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine denounced the statement as “highly misleading and dangerous.”

The theocratic impulses of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker were on full and terrifying display in this case.

In a strange coincidence, Parker sounded as if he were writing a sermon


Hello 700club

rather than ruling on a legal question.

Human life cannot be unlawfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God who considers the destruction of His image an affront to Himself, Parker wrote. [E]Even before birth, all people bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without erasing His glory.

To which you can only reply: Are you kidding? Where, in the mind of such a judge, is the line that separates church and state? Where is the respect for different religious beliefs, or no beliefs at all?

As Alabama slides toward democracy, remember: the country is leading the way. Other states and other courts will undoubtedly follow suit.

It only takes one state to come out of the gate first, and then the next one will feel less radical,” said Dana Sussman, deputy director of

the legal interest group

Pregnancy justice, told the Washington Post. “This is a matter of great concern to everyone who cares about people’s reproductive rights and abortion concerns.



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