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Alabama's largest hospital pauses IVF treatments after ruling classifying frozen embryos as children

"We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through I.V.F.," the health system said.

Published: February 22, 2024 11:34am

Alabama's largest hospital paused in vitro fertilization treatments to help women get pregnant following concerns about potential prosecution of patients and health care providers after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled this week that frozen embryos are children. 

"We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through I.V.F., 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 I.V.F. treatments," the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

The health system's Division of Reproductive Endocrinology said it will continue egg retrieval treatments for women who are seeking fertility treatment, but it will not perform the next step in the process, which is fertilizing the eggs with sperm and allowing the embryos to develop.

It is standard medical protocol to retrieve eggs and fertilize them with sperm to create embryos, one or more of which are then implanted into a woman. The remaining embryos are frozen for potential future use.

The decision comes days after Alabama's high court ruled in favor of couples who sued after their frozen embryos were destroyed in 2020 when a patient entered a hospital's fertility clinic, removed several embryos and destroyed them by dropping them on the floor. 

Citing the Bible, prominent Christian theologians and previous precedent, the court ruled that an 1872 statute allowing parents to sue over the wrongful death of their minor child includes "unborn children, regardless of their location."

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