Alabama's Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are children

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday ruled that frozen embryos are children. Photo courtesy of Alabama Supreme Court/Website
The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday ruled that frozen embryos are children. Photo courtesy of Alabama Supreme Court/Website

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen fertilized embryos are children under state law, attracting criticism and worry over potential consequences from civil rights and medical organizations.

The 7-2 ruling comes in a consolidated case three families brought against the Center for Reproductive Medicine and the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center.


According to the ruling, between 2013 and 2016 each of the three families went to a Center for Reproductive Medicine clinic to undergo in vitro fertilization treatments where the mother's eggs are combined with the father's sperm outside the body.

The procedure resulted in the births of children, and the plaintiffs contracted the companies to have their remaining embryos kept frozen in test tubes.

However, in December 2020, a patient at the hospital where the clinic is located wandered through an unsecured door into the cryogenic nursery where they removed several embryos, which they dropped on the ground due to their subzero temperatures, the court document states.


The families then filed two lawsuits against the center asserting claims under Alabama's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which were dismissed by a trial court, that said cryopreserved in vitro embryos do not fit within the definition of a person or child.

On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against the lower court in the appeals case, stating that frozen fertilized embryos are children.

"The central question presented in these consolidated appeals, which involve the death of embryos kept in a cryogenic nursey, is whether the Act contains an unwritten exception to that rule for extrauterine children -- that is unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed," Justice Jay Mitchell wrote for the majority.

"Under existing black-letter law, the answer to that question is no: the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of location."

The ruling has come under swift and staunch opposition, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama on Tuesday accusing the state's highest court of gross overreach in its classification of fertilized eggs as children.

"Justices have crossed a critical boundary to assign personhood to something created in a lab that exists outside of a human body," the ACLU of Alabama said in a statement.


It said the ruling has "terrifying implications" for Alabamans planning to have children as well as fertility clinics.

"This ruling, along with Alabama's strict ban on abortions, means for many, it is the state, not the person, who can decide whether they can become pregnant," it said.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine said the ruling "flies in the face of medical reality" and is "medically and scientifically unfunded."

It said the ruling will result in healthcare providers ending their practices out of fear their treatments may lead to civil or criminal charges, young doctors choosing to practice medicine elsewhere and existing clinics closing.

"The choice to build a family is a fundamental right for all Americans, regardless of where they live. We cannot, therefore, allow this dangerous precedent of judicial overreach with national implications to go unchecked," Dr. Paula Amato, president of the ASRM, said in a statement.

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