Alabama lawmakers look for IVF solution as patients remain in limbo

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers are looking for ways to protect the state’s in vitro fertilization services as patients whose procedures were canceled following a state Supreme Court ruling have been left stranded in their hopes for parenthood.

The ruling, which raised immediate questions about the liability of fertility clinics, had an immediate chilling effect on the availability of IVF in the Deep South state. Three providers announced a pause in service in the days following the decision.

Judges said this month that three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed in an accident at a storage facility could bring wrongful death claims for their “ectopic children.” The justices cited the language of the wrongful death law and sweeping language that the Republican Party-controlled Legislature and voters added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018, namely that it is state policy to protect the “rights of the unborn child.” to acknowledge.

Former U.S. Senator Doug Jones blamed Republicans who “do their best to get elected and don’t see the consequences and long-term possibilities of what they create.” He said Republicans pushed the language in the Constitution as a “political statement” against abortion during an election year, and now people’s lives are being affected.

“These people have been pandering to the far right for years to get votes, without ever thinking about what they do or say or the lives they will impact,” Jones said.

Alabama lawmakers are working on proposals to eliminate uncertainties for clinics. The bills are expected to be discussed this week.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday she expects to have a “bill on my desk soon as she ensures the Legislature has time to get this right.”

“In Alabama, as I said last week, we are working to promote a culture of life, and that includes IVF. The Legislature is currently working diligently to address this issue,” Ivey said Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels introduced a bill last week that a fertilized human egg or embryo outside the uterus “shall not be considered an unborn child or human being for any purpose under state law.” Republican Senator Tim Melson is working on similar legislation.

Daniels said the ruling has had a devastating impact on couples whose IVF procedures were cancelled.

“We must act immediately and put politics aside and tackle this issue, putting the rights and decisions back in the hands of women and their doctors, not politicians,” Daniels said.

Lawmakers also face pushback from conservative and anti-abortion groups.

The Eagle Forum of Alabama issued a statement urging lawmakers to “avoid hasty or ill-informed legislation that may be in direct conflict with our Constitution and the clear definition of human life.”

“Life begins at conception, not implantation,” according to the Eagle Forum.

Eric Johnston, president of Alabama’s Pro-Life Coalition and an attorney who helped draft Alabama’s anti-abortion laws, said they support legislation to remove the threat of a civil lawsuit from the clinics and make IVF services available again .

But he said they also want some kind of regulation on what can happen to unused embryos. He proposed a requirement that unwanted embryos could be put up for adoption rather than destroyed or donated for research.

“These embryos grow separately in a petri dish for a while. It’s kind of the same as being in the womb,” Johnston said.