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Alabama University Pauses IVF Treatments After Court Rules Embryos Are ‘Children’

"This cruel ruling, and the subsequent decision by UAB's health system, are horrifying signals of what's to come across the country," warned the head of one infertility group.

Image of in-vitro fertilization,

Alabama's leading medical school said Wednesday that it has paused in vitro fertilization procedures due to fear of prosecution after the state's highest court ruled that frozen embryos are "children."

"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," University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) spokesperson Hannah Echols, adding that she is "saddened" for patients seeking the treatment.

UAB's move follows Friday's theology-ridden ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that embryos are "extrauterine children." Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Parker—who espoused Christian fundamentalist control of U.S. society during a recent interview with a QAnon conspiracy theorist—wrote in the ruling that "human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God."

Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said in a statement that the organization is "absolutely heartbroken for the Alabama family building community."

"The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system—the largest healthcare system in the state—has been forced to make an impossible decision: Pause IVF procedures for those hoping to build their families, or put their patients and doctors at risk of prosecution," she added.

As's Amy Yurkanin explained:

There are many reasons families turn to IVF treatment. Some women may have blocked fallopian tubes that won't allow fertilized eggs to travel to the uterus. In other cases, families can carry genes that cause fatal diseases and may want to create embryos that can be tested. In those cases, families will transfer healthy embryos and may discard or donate those that carry genetic diseases.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are right now in the middle of a physically and emotionally challenging medical process to fulfill their dream of a baby," Collura said. "Would-be parents have invested their hearts, time, and resources. Now, less than a week after the Alabama Supreme Court's devastating ruling, Alabamans in the midst of seeking treatment have had their lives and their hopes and dreams crushed."

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"This cruel ruling, and the subsequent decision by UAB's health system, are horrifying signals of what's to come across the country," she added. "We will continue to fight to maintain and increase access to care for the 1 in 6 adults nationwide who struggle with infertility."

Calling the Alabama ruling "so deeply fucked up," HuffPost senior politics reporter Jennifer Bendery noted that former U.S. President Donald Trump, the 2024 GOP front-runner, "spent years putting people forward for lifetime federal judgeships who had grave concerns with fertility treatments like IVF and then Senate Republicans confirmed them."

"Anyone who knows about IVF treatments knows how financially and emotionally exhaustive this process can be," Bendery added. "And that it might not even work, after years of this. I feel for these Alabama women being turned away now as they're already going through this."

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.