State Supreme Court Rules Frozen Embryos Are Unborn Children

( – Millions of couples use in-vitro fertilization (IVF) each year to conceive children. It’s a popular treatment for couples experiencing infertility because of its high success rate. An Alabama ruling involving IVF could have major implications across the country.

On February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling in the case of LePage v. Center for Reproductive Medicine. For the first time in any state, the court ruled embryos are children.

In 2018, a hospital patient managed to gain access to the Center for Reproductive Medicine’s cryogenic nursery and remove embryos that were being stored there. By taking the embryos out of the sub-zero freezer, the cells were destroyed. Two sets of couples sued the clinic under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. A lower court ruled against the couples because the law did not include embryos under the definition of a child.

The state’s high court shocked the country by reversing the ruling and expanding the definition of a child/person. The decision allowed the wrongful death lawsuits to move forward.

The University of Alabama Birmingham reacted to the court ruling by putting an end to its IVF treatments. The hospital, which is the eighth-largest in the US, released a statement saying it was sad for the patients who wanted to have a baby. But they have to “evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages” due to the ruling.

On February 21, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama also issued a statement saying it was concerned there would be “fewer babies” born “as fertility options become limited for those who want” children. The association also warned other fertility clinics would likely make the same decision as the University of Alabama, “leaving little to no alternatives for reproductive assistance.”

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