Faced with backlash over frozen embryo ruling, Alabama lawmakers are looking for a solution

(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

Faced with backlash over frozen embryo ruling, Alabama lawmakers are looking for a solution


February 23, 2024

Lawmakers began looking for ways to protect


test tube fertilization

services in Alabama

after several providers paused


services inside

response to the aftermath of

a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos can be considered children under a state law.

Faced with an outpouring of shock and anger over the decision, lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate have prepared separate proposals to prevent a fertilized egg from being considered a human life or an unborn child until it is in the womb of a woman is implanted.

Judges ruled last week that three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed in a storage facility accident could bring wrongful death claims for their ectopic children. The justices cited sweeping language that the Republican-controlled Legislature and voters added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018 saying the state recognizes the rights of the unborn child.

The Alabama Supreme Court rules that frozen embryos are “children” under state law

State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, a Democrat, said Republicans helped create the situation in their push to enact some of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws. The result, he said, was that the path for people to become parents was eliminated.

Ultimately, the Republican Party must be accountable for what they did, Singleton said.

Former President Trump joined calls for Alabama lawmakers to take action, saying Friday that he would strongly support the availability of IVF.

Republican lawmakers said they were working on a solution.

Alabamians strongly believe in protecting the rights of the unborn child, but the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling denies many couples the opportunity to conceive in a direct contradiction,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter of Delegates.

Bible-quoting Alabama chief justice sparks debate between church and state over embryo government

Republican Sen. Tim Melson, a physician, said his proposal aims to clarify that a fertilized egg is a “potential life” rather than a human life until it is implanted in the uterus.

“I’m just trying to come up with a solution for the IVF industry and protect the doctors while still making it available to people with fertility issues that need to be addressed because they want to start a family,” Melson said.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, a Democrat, introduced legislation that would clarify that a human egg or embryo that exists in any form outside the uterus is not considered an unborn child under any circumstances under state law child may be considered.

This is just the first step in solving this predicament our state has placed itself in, Daniels said.

Melson said he wasn’t surprised that Alabama is experiencing unintended consequences from language added to the state constitution in 2018.

Supporters said

at the time


the wording

was intended to block abortion if the states ever gained control over the issue

what they did in 2022

. But opponents warned about this

the language amounted to

a personality measure that would establish constitutional rights to fertilized eggs.

A second IVF provider in Alabama is cutting back on services after a court ruling over frozen embryos

Gov. Kaj Ivey

a Republican,

said Alabama wants to promote a culture of life, and that includes couples who hope and pray to become parents using IVF.


Atty. Gene.

Steve Marshall

also a Republican,

does not intend to prosecute IVF providers or families based on the state Supreme Court ruling, according to a statement from his firm’s lead attorney, Katherine Robertson.

The courts that have ruled that embryos must be treated the same as children or pregnant fetuses under the wrongful death statute have raised questions about the legal liability that clinics may face during IVF processes, including freezing, testing and removal of embryos. Three in vitro fertilization providers in Alabama have suspended their services since the ruling.

Gabby Goidel, who was days away from a scheduled appointment to retrieve eggs for in vitro fertilization, was told Thursday that her provider would not proceed with embryo transfers.

“I started crying,” said Goidel, who rushed to Texas with her husband to try to continue the IVF cycle with a provider there. The Alabama ruling is in no way pro-family, she said.

This abortion doctor isn’t ready to leave Alabama yet. Don’t you want me here? That’s why I stay

At the Fertility Institute of North Alabama, Dr. Brett Davenport said his clinic would continue to offer IVF. But he also urged state policymakers to take action and remove uncertainty for providers.

What we do couldn’t be more pro-life. “We’re trying to help couples who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a child,” Davenport said.

The court only ruled that embryos fall under Alabama’s wrongful death statute as children, said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at the UC Davis School of Law. The court did not say that embryos had full constitutional rights, at least not yet.

However, I think people in Alabama rightly expect this to be the tip of the iceberg, and this ruling will lead to more, Ziegler said.

She also pointed out that anti-abortion groups and politicians had been pushing for some kind of ruling through the federal courts declaring that a fetus is a holder of constitutional rights.

It’s not just about in vitro and it’s not just about Alabama, she said. “It’s part of this national movement.”


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