Major Alabama Hospital Pauses IVF Treatment Following State Supreme Court Ruling On Frozen Embryos

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Hailey Gomez General Assignment Reporter
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A major Alabama hospital has reportedly paused their in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments following a recent ruling from the state’s Supreme Court which found frozen embryos should be considered “children.”

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) stated Wednesday that their Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility is pausing IVF treatments “as it evaluates the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision that a cryopreserved embryo is a human being,” an emailed statement from UAB’s spokeswoman Savannah Koplon read. (RELATED: Alabama Supreme Court Rules Frozen Embryos Are Children)

“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. We want to reiterate that it is IVF treatment that is paused. Everything through egg retrieval remains in place. Egg fertilization and embryo development is paused,” Koplon continued.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 16 that the state will consider frozen embryos “children” after a lawsuit involving three state couples suing for wrongful death after a hospital patient allegedly destroyed their embryos was turned down by a lower court. The couples attempted to sue a fertility center and hospital where their embryos were being stored in 2021 before allegedly being destroyed.

Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Jill Parrish Phillips later dismissed the case in 2022 after hospital attorneys argued that state laws didn’t cover embryos outside of the mother’s womb. However, the ruling from the state’s Supreme Court justices declared that the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which was used by hospital attorneys in their arguments, does apply to “all unborn children, regardless of their location.”

“[T]he Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is sweeping and unqualified. It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation. It is not the role of this Court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy. That is especially true where, as here, the People of this State have adopted a Constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection,” Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jay Mitchell stated in his filing.

Since reports of UAB deciding to halt their treatments, the Medical Association of Alabama additionally released a statement Wednesday expressing “concerns” over the court’s ruling and asked the justices to “stay or revisit” their decision to “ensure continued access to IVF care” in the state.

“The significance of this decision impacts all Alabamians and will likely lead to fewer babies—children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins—as fertility options become limited for those who want to have a family,” the statement read. “In addition, the ruling has already forced UAB, the largest healthcare system in the State of Alabama, to stop providing IVF services to Alabama couples. Others will likely do the same, leaving little to no alternatives for reproductive assistance. IVF is oftentimes the only option for couples wanting to conceive.”

UAB appears to be one of the first major hospitals in Alabama to pause treatments as others have reportedly continued to provide services while lawyers explore the impacts of the court ruling, according to AP News.