Empty hospital room and corridor in blue light.

Alabama’s Chilling Embryo Ruling Is Already Ruining Lives

Experts have warned about this since Roe was overturned.

A ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, which found that frozen embryos are legally protected children, is already having serious consequences. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s fertility clinic has paused in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in fear of criminal prosecution and possible lawsuits.

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In an emailed statement to AL.com, the clinic stated that it was “saddened” by the decision, which was handed down on Friday, February 16. Patients can continue the process up through egg retrieval, but fertilization and embryo development are both paused indefinitely. And this is just the beginning.

All thanks to a lawsuit that should never have seen the light of a courtroom.

In 2021, three couples sued The Center for Reproductive Medicine, a fertility clinic, and Mobile Infirmary Medical Center, the hospital where their embryos were being stored, when their frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed. While a lower court dismissed the suit, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in the couples’ favor. 

Supreme Court Justice Jay Mitchell wrote of the decision that because the Alabama Constitution asserts that all people are made in God’s image, “this is true of unborn human life no less than it is of all other human life–that even before the birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.” Mitchell further stated that this decision is “sweeping and unqualified.”

While this isn’t particularly surprising—this is the same state that allowed a man to sue an abortion clinic on behalf of a fetus in 2019—it is a devastating and targeted attack.  

Alabama’s decision will strengthen other states’ attempts to regulate out of existence or straight-up outlaw IVF, which routinely destroys or discards unused or unviable embryos. Not only will this make fertility treatments in surrounding states more expensive and therefore more inaccessible, but it will likely lead to fertility clinics in anti-IVF states shuttering altogether.

You may be asking yourself: why would the political party obsessed with making people give birth want to outlaw a treatment that ostensibly supports their goals? While IVF is available to anyone who wants (and, frankly, can afford) treatment, consider who it is that often (though of course not exclusively) requires or seeks nontraditional fertility methods: Single parents, LGBTQIA individuals and couples, and other people who do not perhaps fit the rabid tradwife fantasies of anti-choicers. 

But it also gets anti-choice advocates one step closer to their ultimate goal: defining personhood as starting at the moment of conception, no matter what. 

According to the New York Times, while this ruling will most immediately affect people trying to get pregnant through fertility treatments, it also strengthens the judicial argument that life begins at conception, a crucial tool in the anti-choice attempt to eradicate (legal) abortion. The language in this ruling opens the door to defining life more broadly; this was the first time a higher court found that life extends to conception outside of the uterus, and according to experts, it will help strengthen anti-abortion jurisprudence. 

This is something experts have been sounding the alarm about since Roe was overturned. According to Vanity Fair, chief legal officer for Americans United for Life Steve Aden called IVF “eugenics” and said the procedure is incompatible “in a culture that respects all human life.” Weirdly, neither Aden nor Justice Mitchell have commented on—just to name one recent tragic example being overlooked or somehow justified by people like them—the disrespectful loss of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict’s human life or how that might have effaced god’s glory.

(featured image: sudok1/Getty Images)


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