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The Wire

The student voice of West Potomac High School

The Wire

The student voice of West Potomac High School

The Wire

Are Embryos Children? Alabama’s Supreme Court Says They Are

Addison Hood

Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos or the initial phase of fertility created and stored in IVF (In vitro fertilization) are children under the law in Alabama on Friday, February 16 2024.

Besides strengthening the banning of abortion entirely in the state, this ruling, which began with sets of parents suing under the pretense of  the unlawful death of a child under the state’s wrongful death law due to destruction of their fertilized  frozen embryos. This changes how In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) fertility clinics in Alabama operate under the law. Additionally, there is a possibility of such  IVF clinics being sued by parents of said embryos or “children” as a result of the treatment not working and the eggs not becoming a child. It also leaves the question of what to do with the unuseable embryos once considered medical waste and thrown away.

“An embryo isn’t the same as a child, because a child is an actual living person but an embryo is more of an beginning stage of child development.” Ireland Mcgee, freshman, said 

This case all began in 2020, almost four years ago, when a patient of a fertility clinic located in Alabama took frozen embryos out of the freezer, which freezes the eggs with nitrogen to prevent possible ice crystals, making the embryos burn the patient’s hand. As a result of the burn, the patient dropped the frozen embryos, killing the fertilized eggs; the embryos being fertilized by other patients paying to keep their eggs fertilized and safe in the freezer, were killed, causing 3 Alambian couples to lose the fertilized eggs and to sue under wrongful death of a minor child.

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 “We understand the burden this places on deserving families who want to bring babies into this world and who have no alternative options for conceiving,” Infirmary Health CEO Mark Nix said in an announcement of a pause on IVF treatments AP news reports.

On average, IVF can range from $14,000 to $20,000, which is expensive for the average household,  but for couples unable to give birth or wanting to avoid fostering, it’s the only option. Besides its hefty price tag, IVF takes some four months if it works at all, and the reliability of the eggs depends on the age and number of cycles taken. 

After the outrage, the Alabama legislature passed a bill that Governor Kate Ivy signed into law last week that grants criminal and civil immunity to IVF clinics for their operations, but it did not attempt to address the Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos have the same rights as children under Alabama law that doctors, patients alike were angry about.  

“Nearly 2,400 babies were born in Virginia with the use of assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization in 2021,” according to the most recent CDC data.

Once something many Republicans and Democrats could agree on, this historical ruling regarding IVF incidentally led fertility clinics, IVF patients, and lawmakers to scramble as to what to do next. 

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