Republican Alabama Governor Signs IVF Protections into Law

(Reuters) — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed into law a measure aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization after the state Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos should be considered children, prompting at least three Alabama providers to halt the procedure.

Both chambers of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the proposal protecting IVF providers from both criminal charges and civil lawsuits after brief debates on Feb. 29.

In a statement on Wednesday night, Ivey said IVF was “a complex issue, no doubt,” and anticipated there would be more work to come. “But right now, I am confident that this legislation will provide the assurances our IVF clinics need and will lead them to resume services immediately,” she said.

Republicans nationwide have scrambled to contain backlash from a Feb. 16 decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, whose elected judges are all Republican, that left unclear how to legally store, transport and use embryos, prompting some IVF patients to consider moving their frozen embryos out of Alabama.

Democrats have seized on the Alabama court ruling as evidence that reproductive rights are under assault.

IVF involves combining eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish to create an embryo for couples having difficulty conceiving.

The Alabama high court issued its ruling in response to three families’ lawsuits against a fertility clinic and hospital for failing to properly safeguard their frozen embryos, resulting in their destruction when a patient improperly accessed them.

The ruling was based on the state’s 2018 Sanctity of Unborn Life Amendment approved by voters, which supports “the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”

The bill that Ivey signed would not necessarily mean IVF providers could revert to business as usual, according to its sponsor, Republican state Senator Tim Melson.

Replying to another senator’s question about what Alabama IVF providers could do with unused embryos under the proposed law, Melson said during a state Senate debate on Thursday that, as a result of the court ruling, some providers told him they planned to start perpetually storing embryos that aren’t implanted into a uterus.

“That’s going to probably become their policy,” he said. “That’s not in effect, but that’s what they’re looking at doing.”