Alabama governor signs law to protect in vitro fertilization

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the law that had been approved this Wednesday by both chambers of the Alabama Legislature, which protects in vitro fertilization (IVF), after weeks of protests caused by a controversial Court ruling Supreme Court, according to which embryos are considered children.

The bill, promoted by Republicans, had received the approval of Ivey, who is a Republican and had previously expressed her intention to sign it into law.

“We anticipate the IVF protection legislation will receive final approval very soon and look forward to the governor signing it into law,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola told NBC News Wednesday afternoon before the signing.

Getty Images

The legislation does not define or clarify whether, under state law, frozen embryos created through IVF have the same rights as children. Instead, the bill, which is very limited in scope, would protect doctors, clinics and other healthcare workers who provide IVF treatments and services by offering such workers civil and criminal “immunity.”

The two identical bills in the state Senate and House of Representatives “provide civil and criminal immunity for death or harm to an embryo to any person or entity when providing or receiving services related to in vitro fertilization.”

They establish that “no action, lawsuit or criminal proceeding for damage to or death of an embryo shall be initiated or maintained against any person or entity when providing or receiving services related to in vitro fertilization“.

During debates in both chambers of Congress on Wednesday, lawmakers removed the term “goods” from the bill’s “goods or services,” meaning companies that supply items that are part of the IVF process They could still face civil lawsuits – but not criminal action – if their products are found to damage or destroy embryos. The amended bills also limit monetary awards in such lawsuits to the price patients paid for the affected IVF cycle.

Reproductive rights advocates have said that suppliers of these goods could include, above all, the companies that make the liquid solution that clinics use to help grow embryos.

These groups criticized the bill, saying it did not fully protect in vitro fertilization from broader issues raised by the ruling.

The bill “falls far short of what Alabamians want and need to fearlessly access fertility services in their state,” said Karla Torres, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Even at first glance, this bill seeks to grant personhood to embryos, reinforcing the state Supreme Court’s extreme ruling that recognizes embryos as children,” Torres said, adding that the legislation amounted to “giving back down in the face of state and national public outcry to allow politicians to save face.

However, in interviews with NBC News, doctors at the state’s fertility clinics said before it was signed by the governor and signed into law that they were prepared to resume embryo transfers and other care as soon as Thursday. , if Ivey stamped his signature.

“We believe that provides the protections we need to initiate or resume care” said Dr. Janet Bouknight, who practices at Alabama Fertility — one of the state’s clinics that halted IVF procedures following the court ruling — of the Senate and House bills.

Wednesday’s votes followed multiple hearings held in recent weeks, which featured hours of emotional and tense debates among state legislators, who, despite widespread objections to the proposals, voted overwhelmingly in favor to continue advancing in drafting the measures.

During last week’s debates on the bills, pro-reproductive rights Democrats joined anti-abortion Republicans in criticizing the bill, under the Alabama law, the central issue behind the state Supreme Court ruling this month.

Democrats had called for clarification that embryos were not children under the law, while some Republicans had argued for establishing that they were “persons.” Democrats in the state Congress, which is controlled by the Republican Party, proposed bills to explicitly clarify that embryos “outside the womb” are not considered “unborn children”although those proposals did not prosper.

Republican supporters of the bill have repeatedly claimed that the measure is imperfect and intended to be a quick fix designed to allow the state’s various IVF clinics, which closed after the ruling, to reopen without fear that their employees will be criminally prosecuted or sued in civil courts.

Le Ivey’s signature ends, at least for now, weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the state Supreme Court’s decision to consider embryos created through in vitro fertilization as children.

Specifically, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that people can be held legally responsible for destroying embryos, under a state wrongful death law that declares that a wanton or negligent act that causes the death of a person is a civil crime. As a result, providers of IVF and embryo transport services could have faced legal repercussions if they discarded embryos, a common part of the IVF process, because some of them may have genetic abnormalities or may no longer be needed.

The February ruling immediately forced several IVF clinics in the state to cease services, and raised concerns that anti-reproductive rights conservatives in other parts of the country could turn against the medical procedure.

The decision sparked a massive outcry against Republicans in Alabama and across the country who have opposed reproductive rights — including calls from former President Donald Trump for the issue to be addressed “quickly” — prompting lawmakers in the state will rush to find a solution.

With information from