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Alabama lawmakers act to protect state IVF clinics following court ruling

By Mike Heuer
Lawmakers at the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery have introduced bills designed to counteract a state Supreme Court ruling that has imperiled in vitro fertilization in the state. Photo by DXR/Wikimedia Commons
Lawmakers at the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery have introduced bills designed to counteract a state Supreme Court ruling that has imperiled in vitro fertilization in the state. Photo by DXR/Wikimedia Commons

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Alabama lawmakers are seeking to preserve in vitro fertilization clinics and reverse the definition of frozen fertilized embryos as children after the state's highest court ruled they qualify as such under state law.

The moves are coming after lawmakers on both sides of aisle raised alarms in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling last week in which a 7-2 majority said that frozen fertilized embryos qualify as children under state law.

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The court ruled the state's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act protects all unborn children regardless of their location, prompting at least three local providers to stop IVF procedures.

Alabama House Bill 225, introduced Thursday, would exclude an embryo located outside of a "biological uterus" from the state's definition of an unborn child or a human being. If approved, the bill would take immediate effect upon signing.

Representatives Anthony Daniels, Prince Chestnut, Curtis Travis, Ontario Tillman and Pebblin Warren co-sponsored the measure. All of the House co-sponsors are Democrats.

Republican State Senator Tim Melson said he intends to introduce a similar measure in the Senate, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

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The high court ruling came after several families sued a reproductive medical clinic in Alabama which a hospital patient in December 2020 wandered into its embryo storage area and damaged several frozen fertilized embryos.

The families sued the facility for violations of Alabama's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which a lower court judge ruled didn't apply to the frozen fertilized embryos. The state's Supreme Court, however, overruled the lower court and said the law does apply, which gave the embryos protection status as unborn children.

The ruling sparked widespread fears that nation's in vitro fertilization industry has been placed in peril, but Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Friday said in statement issued to media outlets he doesn't intend to use the ruling as a basis to prosecute fertility clinics. .

While Marshall said the operators of fertility clinics won't have to worry about criminal prosecutions based on the state Supreme Court ruling, it still leaves them vulnerable to potential civil lawsuits. Passage of the proposed House and pending Senate measures would eliminate civil liability.

Former President Donald Trump waded into the matter Friday by calling on Alabama lawmakers to swiftly act to preserve IVF access in the state.

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