In vitro fertilization rights after Roe v. Wade

March, 2024
Tamar Assayag

This past February, Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center, informed CNN Health that around two percent of U.S. births occur through in vitro fertilization (IVF), a process in which an egg is fertilized in a lab and later transferred back into the uterus. Since the first IVF baby was born in 1978, this method of conception has grown in popularity and improved the livelihoods of many families, from heterosexual couples struggling with infertility to same-sex couples looking to conceive biological children. However, recent developments in Alabama have complicated and stunted the process, adding unnecessary difficulty to a procedure that is already financially and emotionally costly.

In December 2020, three different couples sued a fertility clinic when a patient at an IVF clinic in Alabama accidentally destroyed their embryo samples. Although the case was initially dismissed at a lower level, on February 16, 2024, the Alabama Supreme Court overruled this decision, stating that frozen embryos are children, and are protected as such by Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act; this act has now been modified to include “all unborn children, regardless of their location,” as explained in the decision.

In this ruling, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker did not attempt to mask his religious bias, stating in the case that “human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.” Parker’s direct religious reasoning has raised essential concerns regarding the court’s blatant disregard for the separation of church and state; the judiciaries’ decision was deeply rooted in Christian belief, while simultaneously dismissing our freedom of religion, as granted by the First Amendment.

The government, and thus legislation, should represent the views of the majority. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, Alabama has completely banned abortion. Now, with the most recent development in the reproductive rights of Alabama citizens, those who do not want to give birth are forced to, while those who seek fertility treatments in order to start a family are restricted from doing so. It’s been abundantly clear that this ruling has nothing to do with protecting lives, and everything to do with controlling them. A poll conducted by CBS News in the weeks following this decision found that 86 percent of Americans believe IVF treatments should remain legal.

Although this ruling originated from one isolated incident, that does not mean that other states with similarly biased and religious politicians will not follow suit. Yet, this decision evidently does not represent the majority voice of the people. This ruling continues the debate regarding reproductive rights; in fact, even conservatives are divided on the issue, despite the public impression that it was right-wing politicians who pushed for this detrimental ruling in the first place.

Since this ruling faced national backlash, politicians were incentivised to take action. On March 6, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed a bill providing IVF doctors and clinics with legal protection against future lawsuits. However, several clinics have not resumed their operations due to the fact that the law fails to address the legal standing of families and doctors with embryos currently stored in Alabama clinics. As a result, several patients have voiced their desire to move their frozen embryos out of state, but even that has become a challenge as some embryo transfer services, such as Cryoport, have yet to resume services in Alabama.

While such a radical decision is unlikely to occur in New Jersey, we should always remain aware of events that occur nationally and globally, not just locally. Pro-life laws have never carried out their intended purpose of “saving lives,” but instead have controlled and endangered women. This new ruling, and its basis in religious scripture, is highly unconstitutional, which begs an important question: Why are we allowing religiously-biased politicians to police people’s lives, and when will we put them to an end?