The Happy Trail

Alabama IVF Ruling: Apparently Everything is a Baby Now

Photo shows a colorful background with a human egg being pierced by a needle injecting the egg with sperm to fertilize it. Source:

By Amelia Pooser

  On Feb. 16 the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) were extrauterine children and were allowed many of the protections of fully formed, living minors. This ruling was surprising and very controversial as IVF clinics across Alabama halted care; there now existed a high probability that physicians and patients could be held liable for the unavoidable risks associated with IVF. 

  In an interview with Women’s Health, Dr. Serena H. Chen, an OB-GYN and director of advocacy at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine Fertility, explained why this ruling was so medically inaccurate. She said, “humans are just like all other creatures and in nature, reproduction is extremely inefficient. The vast majority of eggs and sperm never have the biological competence to become a baby. There’s a 20 percent chance that a perfectly fertile couple gets pregnant each month. And a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. For infertility patients, the miscarriage rates tend to be over 50 percent.” These numbers underscore the difficulty of the IVF process and its inevitable failures. It highlights the struggles and fights that patients and their families go through to be able to have these children. 

  And suddenly they faced potential punishment for it. In the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and the clear anti-abortion and religious rhetoric witnessed in courts around the country, this was a fascinating ruling. It seemed to alienate the very people who were doing what the judges wanted: trying to have children. This controversial ruling has significant impacts on the ongoing debate and fight over abortion access. Although the Alabama courts have amended the ruling to protect IVF providers and patients the overarching implications of this ruling expand into everyday life as well as into upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases like Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration and Idaho v. United States.

  In a Guardian article by Carter Sherman, the writer described how in Missouri, people convicted of child molestation and statutory rape have argued that through the langauge of fetal personhood, underage victims should be aged up by 9 months. Their age in this way should be determined not by their birth date but by their conception date. Those months could be the difference between an underage victim becoming a legal adult or reaching the age of consent. The fact that fetal personhood and arguments around abortion are being used as defense arguments for child rapists and sexual abusers is astounding; it shows the consequences of politicians making invasive laws about medical procedures and health grounded in misinformation and religious doctrine. These laws surrounding reproductive health are being used to hurt people and do little to create meaningful protections. 

  More rulings are going to come before the U.S. Supreme Court to make other decisions about women’s reproductive rights, including birth control, abortion pills, and emergency medical access. In Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration, the court will hear and rule upon abortion pills and their production and access within the United States. Idaho v. United States, a case weighing if Idaho’s complete abortion ban is in direct conflict with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, in which medical professionals cannot intervene to save a woman’s life if there is a pregnancy and a heartbeat involved. Rulings like the IVF one in Alabama are the precursors and precedents being established as these life-changing decisions are going to be made. From many perspectives, reproductive freedom looks to have a bleak future in the ‘greatest country in the world.’ 

  However, the international response to the U.S.’s recent abortion legislation reflects the discontent and disagreement among the international community and how other countries are more willing to protect their citizens’ rights to their bodies and autonomy. In a monumental decision, the French government recently added guaranteed access to abortion into their national constitution. In the battle for reproductive health and bodily autonomy, the war continues. Some battles are lost, and others are won, but in the United States, we always seem to be moving one step towards “The Handmaid’s Tale”.