University of Alabama pauses IVF services after court rules that embryos are children – DollarJob

University of Alabama pauses IVF services after court rules that embryos are children

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Less than a week after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through in vitro fertilization are considered children, the University of Alabama suspended its IVF treatments so it could consider the legal repercussions of the decision.

“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,” Hannah Echols, a UAB spokesperson, said in a statement to NBC News.

The practice of IVF involves combining sperm and eggs in a lab to create embryos, then implanting one or more of those embryos in a person’s uterus. 

Echols said Wednesday that UAB’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility continues to offer egg retrieval, the process of collecting eggs from one or both ovaries. But it will no longer fertilize eggs or develop embryos, Echols said.

The university’s announcement marks the first major consequence of the court’s decision, which has left providers and patients unsure of how to navigate the IVF process.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday on a case in which a person wandered into an unlocked storage area at a fertility clinic in Mobile, Alabama, and dropped several frozen embryos on the floor.

The court determined that failing to secure that storage area violated the state’s Wrongful Death Act — which says an unjustified or negligent act that leads to someone’s death is a civil offense — because the frozen embryos were considered human beings.

The ruling “does not appear to create criminal liability for IVF providers in the practice of IVF [or] the creation of embryos for IVF,” said Gail Deady, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

But reproductive health experts aren’t sure how the law might be interpreted in future cases.

“This cruel ruling, and the subsequent decision by UAB’s health system, are horrifying signals of what’s to come across the country,” RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association said in a statement Wednesday.

The organization said UAB was “forced to make an impossible decision: pause IVF procedures for those hoping to build their families or put their patients and doctors at risk of prosecution.”

The Medical Association of Alabama on Wednesday called on the Alabama Supreme Court to reconsider or suspend its ruling so that residents can have continued access to IVF.

“The ruling has already forced UAB, the largest healthcare system in the State of Alabama, to stop providing IVF services to Alabama couples. Others will likely do the same, leaving little to no alternatives for reproductive assistance,” the association said in a statement.

It added that the decision “will likely lead to fewer babies — children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins — as fertility options become limited for those who want to have a family.”

In 2021, more than 97,000 infants were born in the U.S. using assisted reproductive technology, which includes IVF. Globally, IVF results in more than 500,000 deliveries per year.

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