A second Alabama fertility clinic has halted in vitro fertilization (IVF)  treatment after the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children.

Alabama Fertility’s clinic in Birmingham has ‘paused transfers of embryos for at least a day or two,’ said Penny Monella, the chief operating officer at Alabama Fertility Specialists. 

Clinics are pausing IVF procedures out of a fear of prosecution, because the ruling means people could theoretically be sued for destroying an embryo.

The ruling could open the door to wrongful death lawsuits in all cases where embryos do not survive being thawed and transferred to the uterus, potentially sending doctors in the state fleeing elsewhere to practice medicine.

The highlighted states have laws on the books stipulating that life begins at the moment of fertilization. In Louisiana, the intentional disposal or destruction of a human embryo is illegal

Alabama-native Gabby Goidel opted for IVF because of an unexplained genetic fertility problem. But she is now concerned about the impact that the Alabama ruling will have on her chances of getting pregnant

It stated: ‘The Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location,’ including ‘unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed.’

It comes after the University of Alabama hospitals halted IVF treatments yesterday over worries doctors will be prosecuted.

‘We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments,’ Savannah Koplon, a spokesperson for the university, said on Wednesday. 

The unprecedented ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court is the first to endow full human rights to an organism so soon after fertilization and opens the door to similar rulings in other states. 

Three couples will be able to sue for wrongful death after their frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic.

Justice Greg Cook said that the ruling ‘almost certainly ends the creation of frozen embryos through in IVF in Alabama.’

Ms Goidel and her husband 

Alabama doctors have been fielding calls from nervous patients like Gabby Goidel, 26, who chose to try in vitro fertilization after several miscarriages due to unexplained genetic infertility.

She opted for IVF because the process allows doctors to test embryos for  abnormalities and Ms Goidel believes it wouldn’t be fair on her or a child to carry an unviable fetus that could miscarry or be born with severe health issues.

Ms Goidel said she was filled with dread when she heard the news.

She told NBC News: ‘Most of our embryos are not going to be genetically normal.

‘My hope would be that we could let those embryos naturally pass, but now it’s, “Do we have to save them?” I don’t necessarily want to implant a child that I know is going to miscarry.’

IVF advocates have warned for years that restrictions on IVF were a possible repercussion of the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Barbara Collura, CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, said: ‘This is exactly what we have been fearful of and worried about where it was heading.

‘We are extremely concerned that this is now going to happen in other states.’

Ms Collura added that the suit did not declare IVF illegal, ‘But it did say the embryos that are handled in an IVF process are children. Are people. And that begs the question: Can we freeze a human? And if we freeze a human, who is liable for that?’

The ruling is limited to Alabama, but reproductive rights advocates have warned of a potential domino effect elsewhere.

An estimated 1.5 million embryos currently sit in cryogenic nurseries across the US.

A lawsuit alleging wrongful death in the case of a discarded embryo could reach the courts in those states, forcing judges to make a similarly impactful ruling. Or, state legislatures would have to pass and enact a law barring the disposal of embryos and potentially penalizing those who do it.

IVF is a process in which eggs retrieved from the woman’s ovaries are fertilized outside of the womb and implanted in the woman’s uterus. Doctors typically fertilize as many healthy eggs as possible to give the woman the best chance of having a baby; unused fertilized eggs are frozen and stored.

Eventually, the unused embryos are discarded, though when depends on the clinic and what the patient needs.

With possible consequences for discarding the unused embryos, doctors may be barred from fertilizing eggs that won’t end up being implanted. This winnows down a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.

Doctors typically fertilize as many eggs as they can retrieve during a cycle of IVF but, under possible civil penalty, may only feel comfortable fertilizing a couple of eggs, forcing women to undergo several rounds of costly egg retrievals to achieve the same pregnancy rate that they were trying to achieve with one retrieval.

Providers may also be forced to leave the state for fear of being sued or because of the high cost of storing excess embryos. IVF patients also have to pay fees to store embryos, in amounts ranging from $350 to $1,000 per year.

Around one in five American women are unable to get pregnant, and roughly a third have either turned to fertility treatments themselves or know someone who has. For women younger than 35 years old, IVF is successful about 47 percent of time.

Related Post