Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

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Alabama Supreme Court rules embryos as children, impacts IVF programs

Alabama+Supreme+Court+rules+embryos+as+children%2C+impacts+IVF+programs

In a groundbreaking decision issued on February 16, 2024, the Alabama Supreme Court has declared that embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) are to be legally considered as children. This ruling sets a precedent that those who intentionally or accidentally destroy such embryos can now be held liable for wrongful death.  Several of the state’s IVF clinics have since paused services, and lawmakers, doctors, and patients are raising concerns about the far-ranging impacts of the ruling on health care, including reproductive technology.

The start of this ruling can be traced back to two previous lawsuits involving IVF procedures.

According to various news outlets, the plaintiffs are three couples who all underwent IVF treatment at a fertility clinic in Alabama. Through the IVF treatment they received, they all became pregnant and gave birth to healthy babies.

As a result of the IVF treatments, they also produced a number of additional embryos—this is standard procedure in an IVF cycle. Those additional embryos that were not used were frozen and preserved by the fertility clinic. The presumption is that the couples could come back at some later time and have another IVF cycle using these embryos without having to again go through the hormonal treatments and surgeries.

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What happened next is what gave rise to this case. The plaintiff couples’ frozen embryos had been cryo-preserved at the fertility clinic, which is located within a hospital. In December 2020, a patient of that hospital entered the fertility clinic’s cryo-preservation unit and opened one of the tanks in which frozen embryos are stored. These embryos are stored at sub-freezing temperatures, so when the patient put his hand in and grabbed some of the embryos, he burned himself and dropped the embryos, which hit the ground and were destroyed.

In 2020, parents who had undergone IVF filed lawsuits seeking damages after their frozen embryos were dropped and destroyed. Initially, their claims were dismissed, but the recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court has overturned this decision, recognizing the embryos as deserving of legal protection akin to that of children.

Students who attend Alabama State University are not in agreement with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling and believe that Alabama is focusing on the wrong issue.

“I think the state of Alabama is focusing on the wrong issue,” freshman Zahanae Smith said. “Rather than being concerned about embryos, they should prioritize addressing the mass shootings that are currently endangering the lives of living children. Embryos are not children, nowhere close to it. The fact that it’s a discussion and now an official ruling shows the state of the state.”

This ruling carries significant implications, particularly for IVF programs in Alabama. With embryos now legally classified as children, the landscape for IVF procedures in the state are fundamentally altered. Not only are procedures put to a halt, the frozen embryos are not able to be transported to another facility.

“The recent ruling concerning embryos is very stupid to me…” said Nsansa Smith, a senior majoring in wocial work.  “It’s unjust that certain individuals are granted the authority to dictate matters concerning women’s bodies. This isn’t just or fair, and I see it causing further complications for us down the line. If I choose to freeze my eggs, it should be my decision without anyone else’s input.”

The repercussions of this ruling extend beyond the realm of reproductive rights. It adds to the ongoing debate surrounding the rights of women, particularly in the context of reproductive autonomy. Coming in the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, this decision represents yet another setback for women’s rights in Alabama and beyond.

“In today’s society, the persistence of gender inequality remains evident for women,” said Carrington Wilder, a freshman biology pre-health major.  Our bodies and voices are often subjected to the authority of men who were biologically born as such. What we require are diverse voices, ones capable of advocating women’s rights. The decisions regarding women’s reproductive health are solely the concern of women themselves and should not be subject to external interference.”

As Alabama grapples with the implications of this ruling, it underscores the increasingly contentious nature of reproductive rights and the legal landscape surrounding them.

 

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