Alabama’s top court says frozen embryos are children, sparking IVF fears

Alabama’s top court says frozen embryos are children, sparking IVF fears

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos resulting from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are considered children under the state’s law, and that anyone who damages or destroys them could face legal consequences. The decision has prompted a major fertility clinic in the state to suspend its IVF services, citing concerns over possible criminal charges or lawsuits.

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The case involved three couples who sued a fertility clinic and a hospital after a patient accidentally dropped and ruined their embryos in 2020. The couples claimed that they had lost their children and sought compensation under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which applies to foetuses. A lower court dismissed their case, saying that the law did not cover embryos created by IVF.

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The Alabama Supreme Court reversed that ruling this week, and declared that embryos are children regardless of how or where they are conceived. The court used the term “extrauterine children” to refer to embryos stored in freezers, and said that they have the same rights and protections as any other unborn child. The court’s chief justice, Tom Parker, wrote that “all human beings have the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory”.

The ruling does not ban or limit IVF, but it has raised fears among medical professionals and reproductive rights advocates that it could expose them to legal risks and interfere with their work. The University of Alabama Birmingham, which runs one of the state’s leading fertility clinics, said it would stop fertilizing eggs with sperm until it could evaluate the implications of the decision. The clinic said it was saddened by the impact on its patients, but it had to ensure that its staff and patients would not be prosecuted or sued for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.

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The ruling has also been criticized by some legal experts, who said it was based on religious beliefs rather than scientific evidence, and that it could create confusion and inconsistency in the law. They argued that embryos are not the same as foetuses, and that they do not have the same potential for life or development. They also warned that the ruling could have broader implications for other areas of reproductive medicine, such as contraception, abortion, stem cell research, and surrogacy.

The ruling has been welcomed by some conservative groups, who said it was a victory for the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn. They argued that embryos are human beings from the moment of conception, and that they deserve legal recognition and protection. They also hoped that the ruling would inspire other states to adopt similar laws and policies.


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