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State Supreme Court's IVF Ruling Ignites Debate Over Personhood of Embryos

IVF treatment, or in vitro fertilization, is also known as artificial insemination (Adobe stock)
IVF treatment, or in vitro fertilization, is also known as artificial insemination (Adobe stock)

Frozen embryos are people. That recent ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court has revived the nationwide debate over when life begins, even causing some clinics in the state to stop in vitro fertilization treatments fearing repercussions if something goes wrong.

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an IVF parent herself, is pushing legislation that would protect access to IVF and other fertility treatments. The Democrat senator says the potential fall-out from Alabama's ruling could be devastating for both medical providers and potential parents.

"IVF providers around the state in Alabama have already paused treatment out of fear that their doctors and patients could be criminally punished," Duckworth said. 

The issue is raising questions, especially among Republican lawmakers, many of whom have distanced themselves from the Alabama ruling.  

Some pro-lifers say that IVF is not wrong, it simply needs to be more ethical.

"If you're going to do IVF, you can't create a whole bunch of embryos and then destroy the ones you don't want. That is not ethical and that is not pro-life," said Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance. "If you're willing to do IVF and you feel the Lord has led you there for your family, you need to be willing and doctors need to be protective of those little embryos that we create."

Alabama's attorney general says he has no intention of prosecuting IVF families or providers. 

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey says Alabama supports a culture of life, including helping potential parents access IVF. She's working with the legislature on a law that says embryos are not viable unless implanted in a uterus.

The decision has caused uncertainty for many including a woman currently using IVF. "I still have one embryo remaining. I don't know if my family is complete at this point so right now, I'm very much in limbo," she said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra met with families affected by the decision. "We're trying to figure out at the federal level what we can continue to do to try and be supportive," he said.

The ruling also propelled the issue into the presidential campaign conversation. 

Former President Donald Trump is vowing to protect access to fertility care. "I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious little beautiful baby," Trump said.

Alabama's biggest hospital, one of three clinics stopping IVF, says it cannot commit to restarting treatments until the state Supreme Court reconsiders its opinion, or legislation is passed.

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