Updated Mar 7, 2024 - Health

Alabama governor signs IVF protection bill into law

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is presented with an award at the Alabama 7A State Championship game between the Thompson Warriors and Central-Phenix City Red Devils on December 4, 2019 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law a bill designed to protect in vitro fertilization patients and doctors from prosecution on Wednesday, following a state Supreme Court ruling that said frozen embryos are considered unborn children.

Why it matters: Nearly all IVF treatments in Alabama were halted in response to last month's ruling that left Republicans facing backlash and former President Trump calling on state lawmakers to preserve the availability of IVF in the state.

  • Some fertility clinics said they would resume services after Alabama lawmakers passed the bill, SB 159, earlier Wednesday. However, others expressed concern it did not provide enough protection.

What they're saying: A University of Alabama at Birmingham spokesperson said in an emailed statement that UAB planned to resume IVF treatments following Ivey signing the bill "that provides some protections."

  • The spokesperson added: "While UAB is moving to promptly resume IVF treatments, we will continue to assess developments and advocate for protections for IVF patients and providers."
  • Janet Bouknight, an IVF provider at Alabama Fertility, told NBC News the clinic would resume services because Wednesday's bill "provides the protections that we need to start care — or resume care, really."

What we're watching: Infirmary Health and the Center for Reproductive Medicine, the clinic at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit at the center of the court ruling, said it wouldn't immediately resume treatments.

  • "At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own," it said in a statement to media.

Between the lines: Fertility experts are concerned that patients or providers involved in IVF still cannot be confident they have immunity from prosecution in Alabama.

  • Susan Pace Hamill, a law professor at the University of Alabama, told Axios this week the bill was "a Band-Aid" measure as there still could be a host of unknown legal risks.

Zoom out: Other states are considering so-called "fetal personhood" bills in the wake of the Alabama court ruling, an issue that reproductive rights advocates say has come to the fore since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and effectively ended federal abortion protections.

  • The personhood movement borrows from the same concept as abortion bans: defining human life at the moment of fertilization or conception, Axios' April Rubin notes.

By the numbers: Two-thirds of Americans oppose considering frozen embryos as people, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll out last week.

Go deeper: Why successful IVF often requires making multiple embryos for one baby

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from a University of Alabama at Birmingham spokesperson and with further context.

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