IVF halted after Alabama high court rules embryos are children

3 providers halt IVF after Alabama high court rules embryos are children

/ 07:32 AM February 23, 2024

3 providers halt IVF after Alabama high court rules embryos are children

FILE PHOTO: A medical technician prepares embryo and sperm samples for freezing at the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology CECOS of Tenon Hospital in Paris, France, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

At least three in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers in Alabama have halted treatments since the state Supreme Court on Friday said frozen embryos in test tubes should be considered children, casting doubt on future access to the procedure in the state.

The ruling by the court, whose elected judges are all Republican, left doctors and patients wondering how to store, transport, and use embryos in Alabama legally. Health advocates said by enshrining the idea of “fetal personhood,” the ruling could inspire further restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom around the country.


In Alabama, would-be parents now have fewer IVF treatment options than they did a week ago, and one state lawmaker is preparing to file legislation aimed at keeping the procedure legal.


President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday that the ruling had put access to fertility treatment “at risk for families who are desperately trying to get pregnant” and that it showed “outrageous and unacceptable” disregard for personal choice.

Biden called the Alabama high court’s ruling a “direct result” of the 2022 US Supreme Court decision to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.

READ; Beijing to cover IVF, other fertility treatments for couples from July

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Wednesday said in an interview that she believed embryos were “babies,” but said in a later interview that her remark should not be construed as agreeing with the Alabama court ruling.

The three providers that have already halted treatments due to the Alabama court ruling used assisted reproductive technology to achieve more than 400 pregnancies in 2021, the most recent year for which data was available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham said Wednesday it had paused IVF for fear that “our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.”


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Two other providers, Alabama Fertility and the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Mobile Infirmary, announced on Thursday that they had also paused IVF treatments. Six other Alabama fertility service providers did not respond to Reuters’ questions about their intent to continue the service. It was difficult to pin down how many such facilities are in Alabama.

The Alabama case was brought by three couples seeking damages from a center storing their frozen embryos after a patient accessed and destroyed them.

The high court ruled that Alabama’s constitution clearly considered embryos “unborn children … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” citing a constitutional amendment that Alabama voters approved in 2018, which granted fetuses full human rights, including the right to life.

READ: Discarding ‘excess’ human embryos violate constitution

A Republican Alabama state lawmaker said Thursday he planned to file a bill that could shield IVF providers from legal risk by clarifying that embryos are not viable until they are implanted in the uterus, according to local news reports.

Alabama Fertility urged its social media followers to push their elected officials to support the legislation.

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“At a time when we feel so powerless, advocacy and awareness is our strongest tools,” the provider wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday.

TAGS: (IVF), Fertility, treatment, United States

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