Updated Feb 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Alabama legislature passes bills to protect IVF after controversial court ruling

An image of the outside of the Alabama Supreme Court. The sky is cloudy.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 16 that embryos are considered children. Photo: Andi Rice/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Alabama legislature on Thursday passed legislation to protect patients and doctors involved with in vitro fertilization in the event that embryos are damaged or destroyed.

Why it matters: Nearly all IVF treatments in Alabama were halted out of caution after the state's Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children. The decision left Republicans facing huge blowback, with former President Trump even calling on Alabama lawmakers to act.

  • The legislation provides "civil and criminal immunity for death or damage to an embryo to any individual or entity when providing or receiving goods or services related to in vitro fertilization."
  • The bill also provides retroactive protection.

What's next: The bill will go to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) to be signed into law.

  • She previously said that the state works "to foster a culture of life, and that includes IVF," CBS News reported.

Zoom out: The state Supreme Court's ruling prompted legal questions, including how and whether leftover embryos could ever be disposed of.

  • The liability risks threatened increasing the costs of providing IVF services and forcing the industry to shutter in Alabama.
  • The court's first-of-its kind decision on IVF ignited worry and fear about the legal ramifications on would-be parents and doctors having to consider frozen embryos as children.
  • "These are the wild west days in the fertility industry," Adam Wolf, a lawyer who has worked with embryo loss cases, told Axios.

State of play: Two-thirds of Americans oppose frozen embryo personhood, per a new Axios-Ipsos poll.

  • Roughly 2% of children in the U.S. are born using assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have enshrined federal protections for IVF, as the GOP is under pressure to distance itself from the Alabama ruling.

  • Democrats and President Biden have tied the Alabama ruling to the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 and the changed landscape of reproductive rights in the U.S. since then.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details throughout.

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