GOP Has Itself Another 'Hot Potato' After IVF Ruling

Backlash against personhood ruling has begun; one hospital has already halted IVF treatments
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2024 11:00 AM CST
GOP Has Itself Another 'Hot Potato' After IVF Ruling
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/iLexx)

On Monday, Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that embryos frozen via in vitro fertilization are to be considered children, in a case where IVF patients had sued after their embryos were accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. Critics are now warning of the "chilling effects" this ruling could have, per CNN, and the first domino to fall in that regard appears to be the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system, which announced Wednesday that it was pausing IVF treatments for now in the wake of the court's decision. The hospital system notes that it needs to assess what criminal liability its doctors and patients could have for the IVF treatments offered there. "We are saddened that this will impact our patients' attempt to have a baby through IVF," a spokesperson says, per the AP. More coverage:

  • Possible consequences: CNN details some of the potential fallout from the court's ruling, including a spike in liability costs, parents forced to pay unending storage fees for unused embryos, and medical providers pulling away from procedures due to fears of being prosecuted if the procedures go awry. Dr. Paula Amato, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, tells the New York Times that doctors in Alabama may stop going to the state to train and could start closing clinics due to similar fears.
  • Nikki Haley's take: The Republican presidential candidate drew some flak on Wednesday by agreeing that "embryos, to me, are babies." The Hill notes that later that evening, however, Haley clarified her stance, noting to CNN, "I didn't say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. ... I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby. ... The difference is—and this is what I say about abortion as well—we need to treat these issues with the utmost respect."
  • Backlash at the polls? A political consultant tells Politico that Republicans now have another "hot potato" they'll have to handle during an important election year. "When a state, any state, takes an aggressive action on this particular topic, people are once again made aware of it and many think: 'Maybe I can't support a Republican in the general election,'" says Stan Barnes.

  • Lawsuits: Legal experts are also weighing in, telling Politico that complaints should be expected to be filed that will claim the Alabama ruling violates state and federal religious freedom laws, citing suits from Jewish and Unitarian plaintiffs, among others, in abortion cases using similar arguments.
  • Theocratic leanings? In a concurring opinion for the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice Tom Parker cited "the theologically based view of the sanctity of life adopted by the People of Alabama," adding that "life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God." In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus writes: "Welcome to the theocracy."
  • Couple at center of the Alabama case: Trip Smalley, an attorney for one of the couples involved in the case that found itself in front of Alabama's high court, says his clients were "devastated" at their embryo being destroyed, and that all they wanted was for their fertility clinic to be held accountable. As for "the wider-ranging policy fallout, I think it's just too early to know what that will be," he tells CNN.
  • Women in Alabama: "Terrified" is how one patient set to have her eggs retrieved in April says she's now feeling, per Kelly Belmont notes she's been taking meds and raising money in preparation for the procedure, and that "if things get paused" at her clinic as a result of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision, "all of that has been for nothing." Another woman who doesn't plan to have more children but still has four frozen embryos says she was told by her clinic that she now has to either use the embryos, transfer them to another clinic, or donate them to another family.
(More IVF stories.)

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