Alabama SCOTUS Rules Frozen Embryos are Children

( – In one of the most controversial rulings since the US Supreme Court overturned federal abortion law, the Alabama Supreme Court has now decided that frozen embryos are legally considered “children” and have the same legal protections entailed by that definition, reversing a previous lower court ruling.

On Friday, Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court declared in an 8-1 ruling that, regardless of location, “all unborn children” are covered under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The decision came in response to a case filed by three couples who claimed a wandering hospital patient managed to access a cryogenic storage room and accidentally destroyed embryos by dropping them on the floor.

The higher court decision overturned a previous decision by the Mobile County Circuit Court in 2022, which dismissed the allegations of wrongful death filed by the couples who lost embryos. According to one of the Alabama Supreme Court justices, unborn children are considered “‘children’ under the Act,” regardless of the developmental stage, location, or “any other ancillary characteristics.”

Only one of the nine judges voted against the decision, arguing that including frozen embryos under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act would lead to more problems than solutions and could ruin the industry of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Alabama.

Barbara Collura, head of the organization RESOLVE, which advocates for the rights of those with infertility issues, said the ruling will harm Alabama residents who wish to expand their families by using IVF. Collura said the decision will create “uncertainty” among Alabama clinicians who provide IVF services. A recent report confirmed that at least two clinics have already paused IVF services after the ruling.

The decision kicks the case back to the Mobile Circuit Court where multiple couples are seeking punitive damages for the loss of embryos they paid for.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, states have been going in different directions with abortion law, with some loosening restrictions while others have tightened restrictions or even outright banned the practice.

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