Alabama passes laws proposed by Republicans to protect in vitro fertilization after controversial state court ruling

Both chambers of the Alabama Legislature approved bills proposed by Republicans on Thursday to protect in vitro fertilization, after the state Supreme Court ruled that embryos are considered children.

The Alabama House and Senate have yet to vote on a unified version of the legislationbefore it is sent to the governor of Alabama, Republican Kay Ivey, for her signature.

A lab worker prepares embryos at an in vitro fertilization center in Houston, Texas, on February 27, 2024.
A lab worker prepares embryos at an in vitro fertilization center in Houston, Texas, on February 27, 2024.
Associated Press

The rapid advancement of the two bills comes two weeks after a state Supreme Court ruling jeopardized in vitro procedures in the state and sparked a wave of national criticism.

With these initiatives, the measure to protect in vitro fertilization is in the process of being voted on by the plenary session of the Legislative Assembly next Wednesday. Barring any unexpected changes, the bill is expected to be signed and promulgated by Ivey shortly after.

The bills seek to create specific protections for patients, doctors and other professionals engaged in IVF services from legal actions and civil lawsuits in the state.

State senators approved SB 159, which “would provide civil and criminal immunity for death or injury to an embryo to any person or entity that provides or receives goods or services related to in vitro fertilization.”

The bill states that “no criminal action, lawsuit or proceeding shall be commenced or maintained for damage to or death of an embryo against any person or entity that provides or receives goods or services related to in vitro fertilization.”

Members of the State House of Representatives passed an identical bill, HB 237.

Over nearly six hours of debate, lawmakers from both major parties raised dozens of objections to the proposals but still approved them overwhelmingly.

Democrats were most critical of the proposals’ failure to explicitly clarify whether an embryo created through in vitro fertilization must be treated as a child under Alabama law, the central issue that emerged after the state Supreme Court’s ruling. earlier this month.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that the “immunity” offered to medical personnel treating IVF patients was too broad and risked leaving women who are injured or harmed without recourse. during the procedure.

“There are still important parts missing,” said Democratic state Rep. Adline Clark.

The bills’ Republican sponsors acknowledged their proposals were imperfect, but said they were intended to be a quick fix that would allow the state’s several IVF clinics that closed after the ruling reopen without fear.

“We want the clinics to be open,” said Republican state Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This is what (this legislation) is trying to achieve.”

“Getting the clinics open was our priority,” he added. On multiple occasions, Collins said he wanted his colleagues, after the bill’s passage, to take time to “look at the issue” more broadly in hopes of coming up with a more comprehensive bill to protect fertilization. in vitro.

Reproductive rights groups criticized the proposals as not fully protecting in vitro fertilization from the broader issues raised by the court ruling.

“While these bills seek to establish legal safeguards for IVF (in vitro fertilization) providers, it is important to recognize their limited effectiveness when it comes to addressing the full scope of the Alabama Supreme Court’s recent ruling that deems embryos created through IVF to be ‘little children,'” Planned Parenthood Southeast spokesperson Jaylen Black told NBC News.

“Rather than addressing the underlying issue,” Black added, “the current legislative approach focuses on eliminating all regulation of IVF facilities and providers, and limiting their liability.”

Alabama lawmakers have scrambled to find a solution to protect IVF procedures in the state following the ruling, which led several IVF clinics in the state to interrupt your servicesand sparked broader concerns that conservatives opposed to reproductive rights could target the medical procedure.

Consequently, providers of IVF and embryo transportation services could face repercussions if embryos are discarded, a regular part of the processsince some of them may have genetic anomalies or may not be necessary.

The decision sparked protests against Republicans in Alabama and the country who have opposed reproductive rights.

In Alabama, that has meant that Republican lawmakers have faced immense pressure to respond to the ruling with a legislative solution to protect IVF, including calls from former President Donald Trump to amend the issue “quickly.”