Embryos Are “Extrauterine Children” According to Alabama Supreme Court

(NewsReady.com) – In 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections by reversing its Roe v. Wade precedent, liberals called it a slippery slope. They claimed the ruling would impact different areas, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A state Supreme Court has now issued a ruling related to IVF embryos.

On February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court expanded the definition of a “child” and ruled embryos are “extrauterine children.” The case was the first time a court in the US has given personhood to frozen embryos. The decision allowed wrongful death lawsuits to proceed but could have a widespread impact on IVF treatment.

The lawsuit involves multiple parents who have accused the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile of improperly protecting their embryos. According to the suit, the center was located inside a hospital. In 2021, a patient managed to gain access to the cryogenic nursery and removed several embryos, destroying them.

The owners of the embryos sued the clinic under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. A lower court dismissed the wrongful death claims, ruling that the embryos were not children. The state’s high court reversed that ruling.

Alabama’s largest hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, announced that its Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility division has stopped all IVF. POLITICO reported the hospital released a statement saying it decided to end the treatments because of the possibility that “patients and [their] physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.”

Experts pointed out the ruling could leave doctors in legal jeopardy for discarding excess or nonviable embryos. Alabama Pro-Life Coalition President Eric Johnston, the author of the state’s near-total abortion ban, told POLITICO that the state has five IVF clinics, and none of them know what they should do. He said they are “all afraid they’re going to get sued by plaintiffs lawyers.” Johnston stressed, “Something has to be done pretty quickly.”

The Alabama court’s ruling will undoubtedly be appealed to a higher court. In the meantime, however, other states could follow the southern state’s lead.

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