Alabama Court Ruling on Embryos Does Not Affect Our IVF Patients

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling declaring frozen embryos to be children causes concern but no changes for our patients

Female court judge hits gavel with decision indicating the Alabama court ruling on embryos | LLU Center for Fertility & IVF | Loma Linda, CA.

We understand that news of the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision ruling that frozen embryos are effectively “children” has caused concern for in vitro fertilization (IVF) patients everywhere. This includes our patients at Loma Linda Center for Fertility & IVF.

Despite causing ripples across the country, this state-specific ruling has no effect on the IVF treatment we proudly provide in California, or on any fertility treatments we offer patients. Our operations continue as normal and nothing has changed in our clinic after this novel statement regarding embryos being legally considered living children.

Loma Linda Fertility Center supports the recent public statement by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) that condemns the misguided Alabama Supreme Court decision and states this ruling “flies in the face of medical reality,” which we practice every day.

What would happen if embryo personhood laws were more widely adopted?

“Laws like this are very limiting for patients and could lead to clinics closing as we saw in Alabama,” says Dr. Gihan Bareh of the court decision, which was based on damage to stored frozen embryos. “Or it could lead to clinics pushing for fresh-only IVF cycles to avoid the added risks of storing embryos, as well as embryo freezing/thawing, which has a slight chance of resulting in damage to embryos.”

This could lead to clinics only performing fresh IVF cycles in which an embryo is not frozen but implanted as soon as possible in the intended mother’s womb to decrease the risk of harm to a frozen embryo.

Increasing IVF costs, decreasing IVF success

That would be a greater financial burden due to increased IVF costs for the patient since only one egg from a retrieval of multiple eggs would be fertilized to create an embryo. This would especially be financially difficult for patients without IVF insurance, which California thus far does not require. It would also increase the emotional toll of going through more IVF cycles.

“In addition, not all fertilized eggs become embryos,” Dr. Bareh points out. “So this one-embryo-at-a-time route would greatly reduce a patient’s IVF chances of success.”

A quandary for IVF patients and fertility clinic staff

There are other concerns of a legal personhood designation for a frozen embryo, which means it is granted the legal rights of a living person. If clinics under this kind of law were to continue to create frozen embryos, what happens when the patient is done with treatment and has embryos left over? They wouldn’t be able to discard them, as that would be viewed as harming a person.

This limitation not only complicates the decision-making process but also adds another layer of emotional and logistical burden for patients and providers alike.

IVF lab personnel wouldn’t want to participate in the IVF process, as it puts them personally at legal risk,” says Dr. Bareh. “Such a law as Alabama’s recent one would limit fertility medicine – and the chances of infertile people to have a child.”

What you can do to prevent such restrictive reproductive rights laws

Fertility patients and those who support infertility treatments can take action by contacting their elected officials and joining existing efforts to support fertility care. You can find and contact local, state and federal representatives to share your opinions on how you would like your elected leaders to deal with this issue of reproductive rights.

ASRM offers an easy way to support the federal Access to Family Building Act. And RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, sponsors a Fight for Families initiative.