Home News Embryo Transfers Are Resuming in Alabama, Even as Legal Questions Remain

Embryo Transfers Are Resuming in Alabama, Even as Legal Questions Remain

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Embryo Transfers Are Resuming in Alabama, Even as Legal Questions Remain

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At least one Alabama fertility clinic resumed embryo transfers on Thursday, just hours after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law that offered clinics and doctors legal protection for in vitro fertilization procedures.

The law, which quickly passed the State Legislature with bipartisan support on Wednesday, was a direct response to a State Supreme Court ruling late last month that found that frozen embryos should be considered children.

The ruling rattled reproductive medicine practices in Alabama, and several clinics temporarily stopped offering I.V.F. treatment, fearing legal consequences.

“We won’t take this for granted anymore,” said Dr. Mamie McLean, an infertility specialist at Alabama Fertility, who confirmed on Thursday morning that the practice had scheduled a few embryo transfers for later in the day and on Friday.

But Dr. McLean, who had spent days at the State House in Montgomery pleading with lawmakers to allow her work to continue, acknowledged that more legal clarity was needed to ensure that I.V.F. could continue without issue in the long term.

Republican legislators, torn between a pledge to protect unborn life and a rush to restart I.V.F. treatments, sidestepped the question of whether an embryo should be considered a person and focused instead on allowing clinics to reopen. It remains unclear when and how the Legislature will address that question, given that it could spark additional legal challenges.

“I don’t know that we will go back to normal as long as the State Supreme Court ruling stands,” Dr. McLean said, adding that the ruling cast “a shadow over our field.”

Dr. McLean said she and other doctors at Alabama Fertility, which has clinics throughout the state, were not only starting new rounds of embryo transfers on Thursday, but were also speaking with patients about the law and resuming appointments.

The ruling put Alabama in the center of a political firestorm over the protections afforded to parents who turn to I.V.F. and other infertility treatments — often an expensive and emotionally draining last resort for having children.

Democrats, led by President Biden, charged that the pause in I.V.F. treatments was the latest consequence from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had guaranteed access to abortion. At the State of the Union on Thursday evening, doctors and women involved with I.V.F. treatment — including the first woman to be conceived and born as a result of the treatment in the United States — were expected to attend as guests.

Republicans, who have long championed themselves as the party best positioned to defend life at every stage, insisted that they had no issue with I.V.F. treatments, calling on state lawmakers to act.

Other clinics were in the process of reopening in the coming days, or continuing I.V.F. treatment. The health system at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said late Wednesday that it expected to restart its I.V.F. work in the coming days.

“U.A.B. appreciates the Alabama Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey for swiftly passing and signing legislation that provides some protections and will therefore allow U.A.B. to restart in vitro fertilization treatments,” Dr. Warner Huh, the chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology, said in a recorded video statement. He added that the department would continue to push for additional protections.

But Infirmary Health Systems and the Center for Reproductive Medicine, the clinic and doctors at the center of the wrongful-death lawsuit that prompted the court ruling, said in a statement Wednesday that they would wait for “legal clarification on the extent of immunity” in the new law.

“At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own,” the statement said.

Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.



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