Alabama's Top Court Rules Frozen Embryos Are Children

State supreme court ruling could have big impact on IVF
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2024 1:00 AM CST
Alabama Ruling on Embryos Could Have Big Impact on IVF
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Svitlana Hulko)

Alabama's top court on Monday issued a ruling that could have major consequences for in vitro fertilization. In its majority decision on a wrongful death lawsuit brought by IVF patients whose frozen embryos were destroyed when a patient accidentally dropped them on the ground after removing them from a cryogenic storage unit, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the embryos are in fact people as far as the law is concerned, and someone can therefore be held liable for destroying them. The ruling grants frozen embryos the same protections as children under the state's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, and overruled a lower court dismissal of the case based on a finding that embryos cannot be defined as children, the Washington Post reports.

Per the Hill, the court "did not address the question of whether 'extrauterine children' should be treated as human beings," but rather, found that the law in question applies to all children—whether born or unborn, in utero or not. This is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in the US, though other states have considered making it illegal to destroy embryos, and some are concerned it will put IVF at risk. Jezebel calls it a "chilling legal first." Writes Kylie Cheung, "If a fetus or embryo is considered a person, the government legally holds control over reproduction; pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage or self-managed abortion become subject to even greater state scrutiny (or criminalization)."

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