The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are children

Flickr | Jimmy Emerson

On Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that embryos created through in vitro fertilization are considered children, which left doctors, prospective parents and citizens of Alabama in a dangerous position.

The ruling was the result of the case brought to court as a result of the destruction of frozen embryos from three couples. The additional unused frozen embryos from previous treatments were preserved in liquid nitrogen at sub-freezing temperatures. In December 2020, a hospital patient entered the fertility clinic and removed the embryos from the tanks, dropping them on the floor.

The couples sued the clinic and hospital. One of the lawsuits was for negligence and wantonness, the other was for the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, an Alabama statute. The case was dismissed at the trial court because the trial judge ruled embryos in vitro were not children and hence unfit for the couples to claim under the act.

The case was then appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which ruled in an eight-to-one decision that the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act does apply because the embryos have personhood.

“The relevant statutory text is clear: the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies on its face to all unborn children, without limitation,” the court stated.

The decision prompted various reactions from the public, especially those who believe this is a false equivalence. 

“Having three embryos in the freezer is not the same to me as having one that implants and become a pregnancy, and it’s not the same as having a child,” Megan Legerski, 37, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama said.

This ruling also came with concerns from people who received or plan to receive IVF treatment. In the IVF process, it isn’t uncommon to have excess embryos that become damaged or carry a genetic mutation and have to be discarded. The ruling raised questions on whether those embryos can be discarded now that they are considered children.

“Will we hold people criminally liable because you can’t freeze a ‘person’?” Barbara Collura president and chief executive officer of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association questioned.

Several fertility clinics in Alabama have paused IVF operations after the ruling to avoid potential liabilities. Alabama Fertility Specialists posted a statement on Facebook to announce a halt on IVF treatments to avoid “legal risk to our clinic and our embryologists.”

The ruling stirred even more controversy when the court’s Chief Justice Tom Parker mentioned religion in his concurring opinion. “Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God,” Parker wrote.

Parker’s statement raised concerns about the lack of separation of church and state. However, Parker’s personal theological beliefs do not reflect the beliefs of the entire state, nor should they have any impact on the law.

While doctors are cautious of being persecuted by the law, prospective parents who seek IVF treatment are suffering the consequences. In an ironic attempt to protect life, the Alabama Supreme Court created a ruling that would prevent parents from having children through IVF.

In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, reproductive restrictions have made it riskier for Americans to plan their families. This ruling is one of many restrictions that could make reproductive healthcare even less accessible in a post-Roe America.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Ticker

Comments (0)

All The Ticker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *