Alabama lawmakers race to protect providers of IVF

Connie Queline

Alabama lawmakers race to protect providers of IVF

Reuters

Both chambers of Alabama’s legislature have voted to approve bills protecting doctors from prosecution if they damage or destroy an embryo created by in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

The House and Senate need to vote on a unified bill before it can enter law.

It follows a ruling by the state’s top court that frozen embryos have the same rights as children and people can be held liable for destroying them.

The ruling created a legal headache for clinics, many of which pulled services.

On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representative passed a bill to provide legal immunity “for death or damage to an embryo to any individual or entity” responsible for providing services related to IVF.

Several hours later, the state’s Senate passed a similar measure.

A unified bill could be put before both chambers for a vote by next Wednesday, before being sent to Gov Kay Ivey for her approval.

  • Alabama’s legislature pushes to protect IVF
  • What does Alabama ruling mean for fertility patients?

Both bills come less than two weeks after the ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court that frozen embryos are considered children, which was met with backlash by medical experts, IVF mothers and reproductive advocacy groups.

It has also divided devout Christians in the state, some of whom celebrated it as “a beautiful defence of life”, while others worried it could lead to restrictions for fertility patients who want to have children.

The response has sent lawmakers scrambling to protect access to fertility treatments. It has also sparked political debates on women’s reproductive rights and how the beginning of life is defined by the state.

The Republican-majority House passed its bill overwhelmingly with a vote of 94-6 after nearly three hours of debate, during which some lawmakers expressed concern that it could undermine Alabama’s status as a pro-life state.

Mark Gidley, a Republican representative, said he was worried the bill is a “knee-jerk reaction” to the court ruling, and that it is important the law recognise that frozen embryos are human life.

Another, Ernie Yarbough, asked if it is “possible to do IVF in a pro-life way that treats embryos as children”.

Others, like Democrat representative Mary Moore, disagreed with the court’s ruling and said it is important to protect IVF treatments as they help many families who otherwise could not have children.

Similar debates broke out in the state’s Senate. One senator, Republican Larry Stutts, described the issue as a “moral quandary”, but noted that discarded embryos through IVF are a “small percentage” compared to the ones that are used or kept.

Lawmakers also heard from women undergoing fertility treatments, one of whom testified before a House committee that she had spent nearly $400,000 (£317,000) on IVF and that she hopes that the money was not wasted.

Terri Collins, a Republican representative who initially brought the House bill forward, said her aim was to “at least keep the clinics open and the families moving forward” while lawmakers work on a longer-term solution.

“This solution is for opening the clinics right away, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said.

Related Topics

  • Fertility
  • Republican Party
  • IVF
  • Alabama

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