HomeEditors' PicksEmbryo protection should not affect women’s ability to receive IVF treatment

Embryo protection should not affect women’s ability to receive IVF treatment

Published April 3, 2024

BY TULLAH MCCOLL

In February, a case in Alabama involving the accidental destruction of embryos was dismissed by a trial court judge who stated that the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act did not apply because embryos are not legally considered people. The plaintiffs appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court which disagreed with the previous ruling. On Feb. 16, the state supreme court ruled embryos are humans whether they are in utero or not, and therefore the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act does apply and the plaintiffs could proceed with their lawsuit against the clinic and hospital.

Following the court’s decision, various state clinics paused their IVF treatments causing distress for current patients as well as public outcry. Quickly, lawmakers proposed and overwhelmingly passed legislation to protect providers of IVF from prosecution and lawsuits. This gives the patients and providers of in vitro treatment civil immunity. 

The goings-on in Alabama have caused the importance of IVF to be overlooked. It is necessary to recognize the positive impact IVF has had for so many people and realize the unfairness of letting the ongoing debate of reproductive rights impact women’s ability to get pregnant. 

The six-to-eight-week process of IVF, in which an embryo is created within a lab using eggs retrieved from a woman’s uterus and sperm from a male partner or donor, is currently one of the most successful methods for women who are unable to get pregnant to be able to have a baby. During this cycle, frozen embryos are frequently discarded for various reasons. IVF is an expensive procedure that not everyone can afford, despite the fact that in the United States one in five women ages 15 to 49 are unable to get pregnant after a year of trying with no prior pregnancies, says the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility can be a devastating experience and is a problem for countless families and women around the world. IVF not only solves problems for people who are infertile, but can also help same-sex couples have children. 

According to the National Infertility Association, one in six Americans turns to in vitro as a way to grow their families, even though the American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that only 24% of infertile couples are able to access the full extent of services necessary to become pregnant.  

To put things into perspective, imagine a scenario in which a 38-year-old woman who is married and living in Alabama has been trying to get pregnant for over a year. Feeling discouraged and wanting to try IVF as a solution, had lawmakers not voted to protect doctors and clinics from prosecution, the couple would need to travel to a clinic outside of Alabama, making the process even more difficult and expensive. Preserving their right to grow their family is the right thing to do.

Providers and clinics have also shared a concern on the issue in Alabama and how it may affect other state or even national laws on IVF. Legislators in Colorado and Iowa have introduced bills that describe the life of a human beginning at fertilization meaning they are subject to the state’s homicide, wrongful death and assault laws, with no IVF exceptions, as mentioned in the Los Angeles Times. 

The facts make it clear that as long as people allow the discourse on reproductive rights to get in the way of the rights women have to get treatment, IVF will become harder to receive. It is important to use this situation as a lesson in protecting human rights and not letting political bias get in the way of that.

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  • Hey Tullah, I really enjoyed reading this piece. It was straightforward, concise and clear as a bell. Great job. Norm

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