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Alabama frozen embryo ruling will limit fertility treatments, critics say

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, but critics say the decision has major implications for fertility treatment in the state. He pointed out that there is a possibility.

The ruling was handed down in two wrongful death lawsuits brought by three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic. The justices cited anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, saying that an 1872 state law that allowed parents to sue over the death of a minor child “protects all unborn children, regardless of where they live. Applicable.”

“A fetus is a ‘child’…without exception based on stage of development, physical location, or other incidental characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority decision by the all-Republican court. Stated.

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Mitchell said the court had previously ruled that fetuses killed during a woman’s pregnancy were subject to Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, and that “the law does not apply to children outside the womb. There is nothing to exclude.”

The decision brought a flood of warnings about the potential impact on freezing embryos and fertility treatment, which courts had previously considered property.

“This ruling states that the fertilized egg, which is a mass of cells, is now a human being. It casts real doubt on the practice of in vitro fertilization,” said Barbara, CEO of RESOLVE, the National Fertility Association. Korula told The Associated Press. Tuesday. The charity said the decision was a frightening development for the “1 in 6 people affected by infertility” who require IVF.

Containers containing frozen embryos and sperm are stored in liquid nitrogen at a fertility clinic in Fort Myers, Florida, on October 2, 2018. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on February 16, 2024, that frozen embryos are considered children under state law. (AP Photo/Lynn Sladke, File)

He said this raises questions for health care providers and patients, such as whether future embryos created during infertility treatment can be frozen, and whether patients can donate or discard unused embryos.

Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said at least one fertility clinic in Alabama was instructed by its affiliates to immediately suspend IVF treatment following the decision.

Dr. Paula Amato, president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, said the decision to treat frozen embryos as legally equivalent to children or fetuses during pregnancy could limit access to modern medicine.

“By asserting that these disparate biological entities are legally equivalent, the people of Alabama will be denied access to the best, most cutting-edge infertility treatments available. No health care provider would be willing to provide treatment if it could lead to symptoms, civil or criminal charges,” Amato said.

Gabby Goidel, 26, who is undergoing IVF treatment in Alabama after three miscarriages, said the court’s ruling came on the same day she started taking daily injections prior to egg retrieval. .

“It was like it took me by storm. It was like all I could think of and it was very stressful to hear that. I immediately messaged the clinic and said this We asked if there was any chance of stopping us and they said we have to take it one day at a time,” Goidel said.

She said her clinic is continuing to treat people for now, but will let them know if they need to change course.

Goidel said she began relying on in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic testing after suffering multiple miscarriages related to genetic problems.

“Without IVF, I probably would have had to go through several more miscarriages before I had the option to have my own baby,” she said.

The plaintiffs in the Alabama case underwent IVF treatment, which resulted in the formation of several embryos, some of which were implanted and resulted in healthy births. The couple paid to have another person cryopreserved in the Mobile Clinic Medical Center’s storage facility. According to the ruling, a patient wandered into the area in 2020, removed several embryos and dropped them on the floor, “dead.”

The judges ruled that the couple’s wrongful death lawsuit can proceed. The clinics and hospitals that are defendants in the lawsuit could ask the court to reconsider the decision.

“We are evaluating the outcome of the decision and have no further comment at this time,” said Michael Upchurch, an attorney for the Fertility Center, the fertility clinic that is the subject of the lawsuit.

Anti-abortion groups welcomed the decision. “From the tiniest fetus to an elderly person nearing the end of life, each person deserves legal protection and has immense value that will be guaranteed,” said Live Action President and Founder Lyla Rose said in a statement.

Chief Justice Tom Parker issued a concurring opinion that cited the Bible when discussing the meaning of the phrase “sanctity of the unborn child” in the Alabama Constitution.

“Before they are born, all humans bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without glorifying God,” Parker said.

Justice Greg Cook, who filed the only full dissent to the majority opinion, argued that the 1872 law does not define a “minor” and has been expanded from its original intent to cover frozen embryos. He said there was.

“No court in the nation has reached the conclusion reached in the leading opinion,” he wrote, adding that the decision “almost certainly eliminates the creation of frozen embryos through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Alabama.” added.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s decision hinges in part on anti-abortion language added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018, which states that abortion is “a state policy to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.” Stated.

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Supporters at the time said there would be no impact unless states further control access to abortion. In 2022, states can control access to abortion.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Alabama decision reflects the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, allowing Republican elected officials to block women’s access to reproductive and emergency care. He said that he accused him of being

“This President and this Vice President will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore Roe v. Wade’s protections in federal law to all women in all states,” Jean-Pierre said. He spoke to reporters aboard an Air Force plane. One.

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