Monday, April 15, 2024

The Alabama House and Senate passed laws to protect in vitro fertilization after a decision about personhood

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Alabama lawmakers swiftly passed bills to help in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments after a recent state Supreme Court decision caused clinics to pause certain services, leaving families uncertain. The House bill, HB 237, passed 94-6 with 3 abstentions, and the Senate’s companion bill, SB 159, passed 34-0. Sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins and Sen. Tim Melson, these bills aim to grant legal protection to those involved in IVF services, except for intentional acts unrelated to IVF.

Collins and Melson emphasize that the bills aim to reopen IVF clinics promptly. They acknowledge the need for a more comprehensive solution but consider this a temporary fix to help affected individuals get back to clinics.

Lawmakers intend to present the legislation to Governor Kay Ivey for approval next week. Ivey, a Republican, expressed anticipation of receiving the bill and assured that the legislature is actively addressing the issue.

The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that frozen embryos could be regarded as children under state law. This decision emerged from wrongful death cases related to an accident at a fertility clinic. IVF is a common fertility treatment, with approximately 2% of the US population conceived through this method.

The treatment involves removing an egg, fertilizing it in a lab, and then implanting it into the uterus. Embryos can be frozen for genetic testing or future use. For a bill to become law, it needs approval from both the House and Senate, followed by the governor’s signature. Alabama’s Republican-controlled Senate, House, and governorship indicate favorable conditions for the bills. However, it remains uncertain how IVF clinics will react even if the bills become law.

On February 16, the state’s highest court made a decision about frozen embryos. Some parents went to court after someone entered a fertility clinic in Mobile through an unsecured door and took embryos. The embryos were stored in a super cold place, and the person’s hand got freeze-burned. The embryos fell on the ground and died. The parents wanted to sue for wrongful death, but the court said the embryos aren’t legally considered as persons or children.

This is the first time a US court said frozen embryos are like humans. Other events, like the US Supreme Court changing a previous decision in 2022, paved the way for this ruling. After that change, states can choose when life begins, and laws about abortion could affect embryos used for fertility treatments.

In Alabama, a big rule about unborn life was made in 2018. It says the state supports the sanctity of unborn life. Even though this rule was mostly for abortion cases, the Alabama Supreme Court used it to say embryos should be treated as persons under the law. The court thinks it’s better to include unborn children in laws, not exclude them, especially when it comes to wrongful death cases.

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