Alabama Governor Signs IVF Protection Bill

( – On Tuesday February 20, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act also covered the destruction of frozen embryos created, stored and used in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process. The decision had major implications for the IVF industry in Alabama, as well as for the question of abortion, as it essentially grants human embryos legal “personhood”. The idea that a fetus is a human being is central to the pro-life movement, while the pro-choice movement opposes that concept as they consider it detracting from the legal rights of women.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling was in response to several wrongful death suits against the Center for Reproductive Medicine, in Mobile, Alabama, for an incident in which embryos were accidentally killed. The three couples whose embryos were apparently dropped on the floor by an unsupervised patient, claim to have suffered from emotional anguish and distress. The greater repercussions are still to be seen, but an immediate consequence of the ruling was that several IVF centers ceased operations immediately.

Due to public outcry about the sudden loss of IVF services, Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey hastily signed a new law on Thursday February 29, that protects IVF doctors and their patients from legal liability and provides them with criminal immunity for the destruction, whether deliberate or accidental, of human embryos. Many patients currently undergoing IVF treatment are relieved that some of the IVF clinics have since resumed operation, but others feel that the new legislation is merely a “Band-Aid”.

While support for IVF is more bipartisan than many other issues, fetal personhood is not, as it is considered an obstacle to abortion. The Alabama House Democratic Caucus has released a statement saying the new legislation providing immunity for IVF clinics is not a real solution. However, it may be difficult to get pro-life supporters to agree with Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth’s empathic statement that embryos are not human beings. The Center for Reproductive Medicine has stated they will not be resuming IVF treatments immediately as they feel that the new law does not address the issues comprehensively.

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