Alabama passes bill to protect IVF after court ruling

Staff WritersReuters
A Supreme court ruling in Alabama on the status of frozen embryos caused chaos in the IVF sector. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconA Supreme court ruling in Alabama on the status of frozen embryos caused chaos in the IVF sector. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Alabama's Republican-led legislature has passed a bill aimed at protecting the IVF industry after the state Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos should be considered children, prompting at least three providers to halt the fertility procedure.

The bill passed the Senate 34-0, with one member abstaining, after passing the House by a vote of 94-6.

Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, has signalled she will support the legislation. If signed by Ivey, the legislation would protect IVF providers from both criminal charges and civil lawsuits.

The February 16 Alabama Supreme Court ruling left unclear how to legally store, transport and use embryos, and some IVF patients sought to move their frozen embryos out of Alabama.

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Republicans nationwide have scrambled to contain backlash from the decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, whose elected judges are all Republican. Democrats have seized on it as more evidence that reproductive rights are under assault.

The Alabama legislature passed the bill the day after a similar effort to protect the IVF industry at a federal level was stymied in Congress.

Republican US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi on Wednesday blocked an effort by Democrats to rush through federal legislation that would guarantee access to IVF treatments and facilities without fear of prosecution, while also shielding IVF providers and health insurance companies.

IVF, or in vitro fertilisation, involves combining eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish to create an embryo for couples having difficulty conceiving.

The Alabama high court issued its ruling in response to three families' lawsuits against a fertility clinic and hospital for failing to properly safeguard their frozen embryos, resulting in their destruction when a patient improperly accessed them.

The ruling was based on the state's 2018 Sanctity of Life Amendment approved by voters that supports "the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children."

On Friday, the Alabama Attorney General's office said it had "no intention" of prosecuting IVF providers or families who use their services.

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