Are Frozen Embryos ‘Children’? The Alabama Supreme Court Thinks So

The implications are far-reaching.
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The Alabama Supreme Court in the US has ruled that frozen embryos are children under state law. 

The decision, which is the first-of-its-kind, will have a serious impact on people seeking in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology treatments.

It came about from a couple of wrongful court cases by three couples who had their frozen embryos accidently destroyed at a fertility clinic in the state.

The accident occurred in 2021, when a patient at Mobile’s Center for Reproductive Medicine entered the clinic’s cryogenic nursery, removed several embryos and dropped them on the floor.

The lawsuit described the action as ‘killing them’ but the mobile county circuit court judge ruled that Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act did not apply to embryos outside of the womb.

However, last week, the state’s supreme court ruled that “the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location.”

(Credit: Getty)

The decision has been met with widespread shock and concern across the world, with reproductive rights advocates emphasising the significant implications it could have for people seeking in IVF.

Already, some IVF clinics, including one at Alabama University, have paused their IVF care due to concerns doctors and patients could be subject to criminal charges.

The obvious problem that arises is the very common situation of multiple viable embryos coming from an egg retrieval. If clinics aren’t willing to take the risk with frozen embryos, we’re then faced with the problem of what to do with the rest.

Transferring multiple embryos is extremely risky for both mother and child, while the likely alternative could see IVF clinics shut down across the state.

Given that the state already has one of the state’s strictest abortion laws, Alabama women are left with a concerning lack of choice around their own reproductive decisions.

There are also concerns about how the ruling will impact the rest of America, if other states feel encouraged to follow suit.

It’s certainly a huge step backwards for reproductive rights in America.

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