IVF Embryos Are Children, According to Alabama Supreme Court Ruling

(USNewsMag.com) – In a 7-2 ruling on February 16th, the Alabama Supreme Court wrote that, under state law, frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization treatments are children.

The ruling comes after three families brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center and the Center for Reproductive Medicine in 2021.

Between 2013 and 2016, the families went to the Mobile fertility clinic to undergo in vitro fertilization treatments. The initial procedures resulted in the birth of their children. However, the families contracted the companies to keep the remaining embryos frozen in test tubes. In 2020, the frozen embryos were destroyed when a patient allegedly broke into the freezer, dropping the test tubes while attempting to remove them.

The clinic argued that because the embryos had not been transferred out of the test tubes, they were not children. A lower court agreed, and the lawsuits for Wrongful Death of a Minor Act were dismissed by a trial court, which ruled that frozen embryos do not qualify under the definition of a child or a person.

However, the February 16th ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court overturns the lower court’s ruling and states that frozen in vitro embryos are children. For the majority opinion, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote that “regardless of location,” the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to any child, adding there is nothing in the language of the law to exclude “extrauterine children from the Act’s coverage.”

The only full dissent to the majority opinion was filed by Justice Greg Cook, who wrote that the ruling stretched the 1872 law, which did have a definition for “minor child.”

The defendants in the case, the hospital and clinic, are discussing whether they will ask the court to reconsider its decision.

Following the court’s ruling, at least one fertility clinic in Alabama has been told by its affiliated hospital to pause IVF treatments, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine spokesperson Sean Tipton.

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