Alabama Lawmakers Move to Protect IVF Treatments – US 247 News


Alabama laws are considering legislation that would protect in vitro fertilization, after a State Supreme Court ruling last week led some clinics to halt IVF treatments and left many women in limbo.

The ruling, which declared that frozen embryos should be legally considered children, set off a scramble among leaders in both parties to preserve access to a crucial reproductive treatment for families who have struggled with infertility and for LGBTQ couples who are seeking to have children.

The court’s ruling, handed down by an 8-to-1 majority, applies only to three couples who were undergoing a fertility clinic over the accidental destruction of their embryos. But its wording — paired with a fiery opinion from the chief justice encouraging lawmakers to push its scope further — has left many wondering about the possible wider implications for people seeking IVF treatment.

At least three major fertility clinics in Alabama have halted IVF treatments this week as doctors and lawyers assess the possible consequences of the ruling. On Friday, a major embryo shipping company said that it was also “pausing” its business in Alabama.

In interviews this week, people across the state expressed a fear that the ruling would hinder their journeys to parenthood through IVF, a process that is already considered emotionally and physically painful.

The ruling also raised perplexing questions: What rights will people have over their embryos? And could disposing of unused embryos lead to criminal charges?

The state moved to quell some of those fears on Friday. Alabama’s attorney general, Steve Marshall, “has no intention of using the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision as a basis for prosecuting IVF families or providers,” Katherine Robertson, the office’s chief counsel, said in a statement.

And while only Republicans sit on the State Supreme Court, many conservatives in Alabama and across the nation sought to quickly distance themselves from the ruling and any perception that they are out of step with the many Americans who support IVF and access to reproductive medicine.

State Senator Tim Melson, a Republican who has worked as an anesthesiologist and clinical researcher, is planning to introduce a measure that would ensure people can continue to pursue IVF treatment.

Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signaled she would support such a proposal, saying in a statement on Friday that fostering “a culture of life” included helping “couples hoping and praying to be parents who use IVF.”

Because Republicans hold a supermajority in the State Legislature, their support is essential for any bill to become law. On Friday, former President Donald J. Trump, the overwhelming favorite to become the Republican nominee for president this year, called on the Legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama,” and for the protection of IVF in all 50 states.

Democrats have also put forward their own measure. Anthony Daniels, the House minority leader in Alabama, filed a bill on Thursday that says “any fertilized human egg or human embryo that exists outside of a human uterus is not considered an unborn child or human being for any purpose under state law.”

“There will be an opportunity for legislators to come together to really address the issue head on in a bipartisan manner,” Mr. Daniels said in an interview. He added that he planned to speak to Mr. Melson and other Republicans about their proposals.

Nationally, Democrats have not only condemned the ruling in Alabama, but also tied it directly to the US Supreme Court decision that ended nationwide protections for abortions, which has galvanized women and suburban voters to support Democrats across the country.

Republicans, who have struggled to respond to the political backlash over the end of Roe v. Wade, are now facing additional questions about whether government should intervene in reproductive medicine and fertility treatments.

“Alabama families losing access to IVF is a direct result of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade,” Julie Chávez Rodríguez, President Biden’s campaign manager, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comments on Friday. “Trump is responsible for 20-plus abortion bans, restrictions on women’s ability to decide if and when to grow a family, and attacks on contraception.”

The issue could also reverberate in hotly contested congressional races. Mr. Daniels, the House Democratic leader, is one of several legislators running for a newly drawn congressional district in Alabama widely viewed as a possible pickup for his party.

But by Friday, it became clear that many Republican leaders, in Alabama and across the country, had little interest in leaving open the possibility that the ruling would jeopardize reproductive access.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, said at the Politico Governors Summit on Thursday that while he was not familiar with the full details of the ruling, he supported IVF treatment because many parents “wouldn’t have children” if it wasn’t for the procedure. US Senator Katie Britt, a Republican, said that the procedure “helps create life and grow families, and it deserves the protection of the law.”

And in Tennessee, State Representative Jeremy Faison, a member of House Republican leadership, told reporters that he believed the procedure to be “very pro-life.” When asked about the Alabama ruling, he said he would be “nervous about that.”

The Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo, obtained by The New York Times, that made clear that candidates should “clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF”

“It is imperative that our candidates align with the public’s overwhelming support for IVF and fertility treatments,” Jason Thielman, the executive director, wrote.

Sarah Kliff contributed reporting.