July 19, 2024

Alabama court rules frozen embryos are children, chilling IVF advocates

The IVF community is reeling from an Alabama court decision that embryos created during in-vitro fertilization are “extrauterine children” and legally protected like any other child.

IVF advocates say the ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court could have far-reaching consequences for millions of Americans struggling to get pregnant, especially those living in states with “personhood” laws granting legal status to unborn children.

The court’s ruling repeatedly invoked Christian faith and the Alabama Constitution, which specifically protects unborn children, although that has typically referred to a developing fetus inside a womb.

IVF advocates have been warning for several years that such decisions were a potential repercussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and permit states to ban abortions. The federal Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2020 that there at least 600,000 frozen embryos were in storage nationwide; the National Embryo Donation Center said the number could be 1 million.

Nationally, about 2% of births a year involve IVF, a process by which multiple eggs are harvested, fertilized and implanted to create a pregnancy. Alabama’s ruling raises questions about what happens to those unused embryos in storage, whether authorities could order them to be implanted in unwilling parents or bring child abuse charges, and what happens if a doctor implants embryos that fail to develop.

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Alabama Court Decision (PDF)…