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The Science Of IVF: What To Know About Alabama’s ‘Extrauterine Children’ Ruling

Written by on February 25, 2024

The Alabama Supreme Court’s recent ruling categorizes frozen embryos as “extrauterine children.” Stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit after a fertility clinic accident, the ruling aligns with the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The decision has led to a temporary halt in IVF treatments by some Alabama providers, with legislative clarifications pending.

IVF involves multiple steps, crucially timed with a patient’s menstrual cycle, starting with hormone injections to stimulate egg production, followed by egg retrieval, fertilization, and eventual embryo transfer to the uterus or freezing for future use. The process’s natural and laboratory stages see many fertilized eggs not survive, a common aspect of fertility that the Alabama ruling complicates by potentially attributing legal personhood to embryos at all stages. This development poses ethical, legal, and financial challenges for reproductive specialists and patients, especially concerning the management of surplus frozen embryos, which play a key role in reducing IVF’s risks and costs. The broader implications of this ruling for IVF access and affordability, both within Alabama and nationally, remain uncertain as legal and medical communities navigate these new legal standards.

Source: NPR

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