life after roe

Some Alabama IVF Clinics Resume Services Under New Law

Supporters of legislation safeguarding IVF treatments hold a rally at the Alabama State House
Photo: Julie Bennett/REUTERS

At least two fertility clinics in Alabama are resuming in vitro fertilization services after Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into law late Wednesday that aims to protect patients and providers from legal liability. The measure is a response to the state Supreme Court’s decision last month that said frozen embryos are children under Alabama law, throwing fertility services into a period of chaos. Patients previously told the Cut they were scrambling to figure out how to ship their embryos out of state after several providers paused IVF care.

The ruling came in a pair of consolidated wrongful-death cases brought by three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic. The new law, which applies retroactively, shields patients and providers from civil litigation and criminal prosecution in the event that embryos are damaged or destroyed during treatment and other services, such as storage and shipment. Discarding unviable or leftover embryos, which is common practice among IVF providers, also could have led to criminal charges due to the court’s ruling.

Lawmakers say the bill is a stopgap that allows fertility clinics to resume care as they consider other questions raised by the decision. Notably, the measure does not address fetal personhood, the issue at the heart of the ruling, although its sponsors originally intended for it to do so. Republican state senator Tim Melson’s draft legislation said, “Any human egg that is fertilized in vitro shall be considered a potential life but shall not be considered for any purposes a human life, a human being, a person, or an unborn life unless and until the fertilized egg is implanted into a woman’s uterus and a viable pregnancy can be medically detected.” He told NPR that the language was ultimately removed so the measure could more easily pass.

Two providers that paused IVF services following the court’s decision — the state’s largest health-care system, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the clinic Alabama Fertility — announced they’ll resume offering care now that the measure has been signed into law. However, the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Mobile Infirmary, the defendants in the court’s decision, told CNN the legislation did not go far enough.

“As we understand the language of the proposed law, as it stands, we are not reopening our IVF facility until we have legal clarification on the extent of immunity provided by the new Alabama law,” the clinic said in a statement. “At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own.”

The court’s ruling led to nationwide concern that other conservative lawmakers would feel empowered to restrict IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies. Public outrage already has forced lawmakers in Florida to postpone a measure that reproductive-rights advocates said was a backdoor attempt to establish fetal personhood, and to consider protections for IVF providers and patients.

Some Alabama Clinics Resume IVF Services Under New Law