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Alabama’s largest hospital, and others, suspend IVF procedures after court ruling

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Providers are pausing procedures, saying they can’t risk prosecution of physicians or patients. The state’s Supreme Court has ruled that embryos have the same legal rights as children.

In the wake of an Alabama court ruling that says embryos have the same legal protections as children, the state’s largest hospital and other providers say they are pausing IVF procedures.

Image credit: ©ipuwadol - stock.adobe.com

Alabama hospitals and fertility clinics are pausing IVF treatments in the wake of a state court ruling. (Image credit: ©ipuwadol - stock.adobe.com)

Providers say they don’t want to risk having doctors or patients face criminal prosecution for undergoing IVF treatments.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham health system says it reluctantly is pausing IVF procedures.

“We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments,” the system said in a statement.

UAB Medicine says that egg retrieval will still take place, but “egg fertilization and embryo development is paused.”

Mobile Infirmary, an affiliate of Infirmary Health in Alabama, also says it’s going to stop IVF procedures. Mark Nix, president and CEO of Infirmary Health, issued a statement explaining the decision.

“The recent Alabama Supreme Court decision has sadly left us with no choice but to pause IVF treatments for patients,” Nix said. “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.”

Alabama Fertility Specialists said it is also pausing IVF procedures for the time being, but also encouraged frustrated patients to make their voice heard.

“We have made the impossibly difficult decision to hold new IVF treatments due to the legal risk to our clinic and our embryologists,” the provider said in a message on Facebook. “We are contacting patients that will be affected today to find solutions for them and we are working as hard as we can to alert our legislators as to the far reaching negative impact of this ruling on the women of Alabama.”

The practice said it’s not planning on going away, adding, “AFS will not close. We will continue to fight for our patients and the families of Alabama.”

The Alabama ruling has commanded national attention from healthcare providers and patients who are choosing IVF to have a family.

The Alabama Supreme Court, which is composed entirely of Republicans, essentially states that fertilized embryos are unborn children and deserving of legal protection.

“The People of Alabama have declared the public policy of this State to be that unborn human life is sacred,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote. “We believe that each human being, from the moment of conception, is made in the image of God, created by Him to reflect His likeness.”

Healthcare leaders denounced the ruling and warned of widespread consequences, including those who have turned to IVF procedures because they want to have children. In IVF procedures, several eggs are fertilized to give parents the best chance of having a child. Remaining embryos can be frozen for later use, at the request of families.

Paula Amato, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, warned that the ruling would have far-reaching implications. “No healthcare provider will be willing to provide treatments if those treatments may lead to civil or criminal charges,” Amato said in a statement.

If the policy outcomes mandated under this decision stand, the consequences will be profound,” Amato said. “Modern fertility care will be unavailable to the people of Alabama, needlessly blocking them from building the families they want. Young physicians will choose not to come to the state for training or to begin their practice. Existing clinics will be forced to choose between providing sub-optimal patient care or shutting their doors.”

Lawmakers in Congress are calling for legislative action to protect access to IVF procedures. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., posted on X, “In their relentless campaign to rob women of the right to make decisions about their bodies, now anti-choice extremists are taking away access to IVF. Congress must take action before this goes any further.”

Vice President Kamala Harris also blasted the Alabama ruling. “Individuals, couples who want to start a family, are now being deprived of access to what can help them start a family,” Harris said.

Alabama state Sen. Tim Melson, a Republican who is also a medical doctor, told NPR he’s crafting legislation that would allow IVF treatments to continue. He told NPR he plans to propose a measure that would distinguish eggs fertilized in vitro as a “potential life” that wouldn’t be legally considered a human life until it is implanted in the uterus.

"This issue is one that I've heard from several infertility clinics, and they're anxious to get it out and have the ability to go back to functioning," Melson told NPR.

Brett Davenport, head of the Fertility Clinic of North Alabama, said he hopes the court ruling is overturned.

In a message to patients posted on Facebook, Davenport said, “We're still going to perform IVF as we always have. We're still going to offer cryopreservation of embryos, we're going to offer the biopsy and pre genetic testing of embryos.”

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