Alabama hospital halts IVF following state ruling saying frozen embryos are children

An embryologist shows an Ovocyte after it was inseminated at the Virginia Center for Reproductive Medicine, in Reston, Virginia on June 12, 2019 - Freezing your eggs, getting pregnant after the age of 50, choosing the baby's sex: when it comes to in-

A hospital in Alabama has put a pause on vitro fertilization treatments on Wednesday following a state court ruling that frozen embryos are the legal equivalent of children. 

"We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF," a statement from the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system read, the Associated Press reported. 

The new ruling has forced health care providers to weigh the impact of criminal charges or punitive damages for undergoing IVF treatments; however, other fertility treatment providers in the state are reportedly continuing to provide IVF. 

LINK: Read the full opinion (PDF)

READ MORE: Alabama Supreme Court: Frozen embryos are 'children' under state law

More info on the court ruling

The ruling stems from a move by Alabama voters to add language to the state's constitution to recognize the "rights of unborn children." 

Supporters at the time said it would "be a declaration of voters’ beliefs" and would have no impact unless states gain more control over abortion access. States then gained control of abortion access in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

Critics at the time said the constitutional change would have broad ramifications for civil and criminal law beyond abortion access and that it was essentially a "personhood" measure that would establish constitutional rights for fertilized eggs.

What does the ruling say?

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The justices, citing that anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, ruled that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child "applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location."

"Unborn children are ‘children’ under the Act, without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics," Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in the majority ruling.

What's next for healthcare providers?

The ruling has brought a rush of warnings about the potential impact on fertility treatments and the freezing of embryos, which had previously been considered property by the courts. 

Barbara Collura, the CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, told the AP Tuesday that the ruling raises questions for providers and patients, including if they can freeze future embryos created during fertility treatment or if patients could ever donate or destroy unused embryos.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.