Alabama Supreme Court gavel ruling frozen embryos are 'children' | Ember Fertility Center

Ember Patients Are Not Affected by the Alabama Court Embryo Ruling

Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos have personhood rights has no bearing on infertility treatments by Ember

On February 16, 2024, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring that unimplanted embryos are “children,” causing significant national reaction and concern among fertility patients and reproductive rights supporters everywhere.

We reassure all our patients, particularly those undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) that this misguided ruling changes nothing in the way we care for patients or the treatments we utilize to help them have children.

We are in complete agreement with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in its public statement denouncing the Alabama Supreme Court decision saying it is a medically and scientifically unfounded decision.

IVF often involves the cryopreservation (freezing and storing) of embryos before implantation in the womb. IVF is an essential tool in fertility medicine, helping patients have a healthy child they could otherwise not have. Across the United States annually, about 2% of births involve IVF, and more than 8 million children have been born through this procedure worldwide.

Ember infertility treatments will not change

We sympathize with the people of Alabama in need of IVF to have a family, as well as with the professionals in fertility clinics there, many of which have ceased providing IVF services. Fortunately, Ember is unaffected by Alabama’s state-specific ruling, which we hope will be changed by state legislation there.

Our infertility patients will continue to receive the most advanced treatments, including IVF. Every step of our IVF care will continue unchanged.

At Ember, everyone is a VIP – very important patient

Our view on personhood, IVF & the Alabama Supreme Court Ruling

The ruling by the court is exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make. Under the current Alabama ruling, frozen embryos, including those at the blastocyst stage that are transplanted to the woman’s womb for pregnancy, are treated like a person.

This declaration of personhood for embryos (a point of view that gives the embryo the rights of a live person under the law), means one can be held legally responsible if destroying an embryo. This potentially sets the stage for a ruling that an embryo and blastocyst outside the womb – in the IVF lab culture media during development or on the frozen straws (special vessels) used in cryopreservation – holds constitutional rights.

The Alabama decision involved a person who mistakenly destroyed a frozen embryo by dropping the frozen straw it was in. This ruling poses a serious threat to embryologists, specialists like Dr. William Freije certified in reproductive endocrinology & infertility, and all fertility healthcare providers in Alabama and other states that are specifically conservative.

A Pandora’s box of potential woe for IVF and reproductive rights

This opens so many questions: Will the Alabama Supreme Court hold embryologists criminally liable during IVF because they can’t freeze/thaw a “person?” Will other states, or even the United States follow suit?

Most of the IVF centers nationwide nowadays transfer frozen and thawed blastocysts to their patients’ uterus because of higher live birth success rates. But 2%-3% of frozen blastocysts don’t survive the thaw process and become degenerative thereafter, so they must be discarded. In such cases, could the REI physicians, lab director and embryologists be criminalized for being an accomplice in a crime? What happens to the preimplantation genetic tests of PGT-A and PGT-M that detect aneuploid blastocysts that can’t survive? Will they be abandoned?

The ruling is a reminder of how important fetal personhood is becoming for both the antiabortion movement and many politicians close to election time ­– and of its potentially drastic consequences. The ruling is a warning of how punitive personhood politics have become.

As a result of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling other conservative states that embrace the idea of personhood before birth can make it harder to pursue IVF across large swaths of the country. We view this as a terrible prospect worth fighting against.

Help protect infertility patients and all reproductive health rights

Ember is constantly advocating for fertility medicine and promoting rights for our patients, such as California legislation to require IVF coverage by private insurers. We encourage our patients to let their legislators, who will ultimately make decisions on reproductive rights, know their feelings and desires in this regard.

You can contact your local, state and federal representatives by going to this one website. ASRM has an easy way to lobby your U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the federal Access to Family Building Act. And RESOLVE has a Fight for Families effort to promote reproductive rights.

Ember Fertility offers support

Dr. Asemi is a member of the Resolve Advocacy Network. As a passionate defender of reproductive freedoms, she’ll attend Resolve’s Federal Advocacy Day on May 14, 2024 to meet with congress to discuss issues impacting fertility patients and physicians.

Dr. Asemi has also connected with fertility clinics in Alabama, offering to assist patients whenever they need help.


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