NATIONAL NEWS

Alabama hospital puts pause on IVF in wake of ruling saying frozen embryos are children

Feb 21, 2024, 12:47 PM | Updated: 8:28 pm

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s largest hospital paused in vitro fertilization treatments Wednesday as providers and patients across the state scrambled to assess the impact of a court ruling that said frozen embryos are the legal equivalent of children.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said in a statement that it must evaluate whether its patients or doctors could face criminal charges or punitive damages for undergoing IVF treatments. “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF,” the statement from spokeswoman Savannah Koplon read.

Doctors and patients were gripped by a mixture of shock, anxiety and fear as they weighed how to proceed in the wake of the ruling by the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court that put in question the future of IVF.

“Disbelief, denial, all the stages of grief. … I was stunned,” said Dr. Michael C. Allemand, a reproductive endocrinologist at Alabama Fertility, which provides IVF services.

Allemand said they are having daily discussions about how to proceed. He said IVF is often the best treatment for patients who desperately want a child, and the ruling threatens doctors’ ability to provide that care.

“The moments that our patients are wanting to have by growing their families — Christmas mornings with grandparents, kindergarten, going in the first day of school, with little back-backs— all that stuff is what this is about. Those are the real moments that this ruling could deprive patients of,” he said.

Gabby and Spencer Goidel of Auburn, Alabama, turned to IVF after three miscarriages. The Alabama ruling came down on the same day Gabby began a 10-day series of daily injections ahead of egg retrieval, with the hopes of getting pregnant through IVF next month.

“When I saw this ruling, I got very angry and very hurt that it could potentially stop my cycle. People need to know this is affecting couples — real-life couples who are trying to start families, who are just trying to live the quote, unquote American dream,” Gabby Goidel, 26, said. She said her clinic is continuing to provide treatment for now but is reviewing the situation on a day-by-day basis.

Justices — citing language in the Alabama Constitution that the state recognizes the “rights of the unborn child” — said three couples could sue for wrongful death when their frozen embryos were destroyed in a accident at a storage facility.

“Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority ruling. Mitchell said the court had previously ruled that a fetus killed when a woman is pregnant is covered under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and nothing excludes “extrauterine children from the Act’s coverage.”

Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker, in a scripture-draped concurring opinion, wrote that, “even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”

While the court case centered on whether embryos were covered under the wrongful death of a minor statute, some said treating the embryo as a child — rather than property — could have broader implications and call into question many of the practices of IVF.

“If this is now a person, will we be able to freeze embryos?” Barbara Collura, CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said.

The fertility clinic and hospital in the Alabama case could ask the court to reconsider the decision or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the matter if they believe there is a conflict with federal law.

The Alabama Supreme Court decision partly hinged on anti-abortion language added to the Alabama Constitution by voters in 2018, stating it is the “policy of this state to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.”

Eric Johnston, an anti-abortion activist and lawyer who helped draft the constitutional language, said the “purpose of that was more related to abortion.”

He said it was intended to clarify that the Alabama Constitution does not protect the right to abortion and eventually laid the groundwork for Alabama to ban abortions when states regained control of abortion access. However, opponents of the constitutional amendment warned in 2018 that it was essentially a personhood measure that could give rights to fertilized eggs.

“Modern science has raised up this question about well is a fertilized egg that is frozen — is that a person? And that’s the ethical, medical, legal dilemma that we’ve got right now,” Johnston said.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” he added.

National News

Associated Press

Rail bridge collapses during Midwest flooding as a heat wave persists across much of the US

Millions of Americans sweated through a scorching weekend as temperatures soared across the U.S., while residents were rescued from floodwaters that forced evacuations across the Midwest. One person died during flooding in South Dakota, the governor said. From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the West to California, public officials […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

17 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men stepped in and drew firearms, according to a statement from St. Louis police. The man who died likely was in his mid-twenties and […]

17 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

18 hours ago

Alabama hospital puts pause on IVF in wake of ruling saying frozen embryos are children