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Alabama’s embryo ruling sets a dangerous precedent (Op-Ed)

In a highly controversial move, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos that are preserved for in vitro fertilization (IVF) are “akin to children”. The court voted 8-1 and cited religious reasoning in their concurring opinion. 

While this decision stems from the fact that embryos are in fact human eggs fertilized by sperm, this ruling opens the door for massive consequences and questionable logic concerning the legal status of embryos, fetuses, and birthed children. 

The ruling is a result of a set of lawsuits concerning the law that parents are able to sue for the wrongful death of their minor children, initiated by the accidental destruction of embryos in a Mobile, Alabama fertility clinic. 

Depending on where one stands for the pro-choice and anti-choice debate, this may come across as negative or positive news. If the perception is held that embryos should be afforded the same rights, liberties, and protections as birthed children, this move ensures that and opens the door for a higher level of safeguarding and legal armor. 

On the other hand, for those who do not believe embryos to be equivalent to unborn children, this is a deeply negative decision that sets a dangerous precedent towards women who are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant through alternative fertility methods. 

By providing these same legal protections to fertilized embryos, several IVF clinics have paused treatments out of concern for legal liability and criminal charges. This is due to the fact that, per the nature of how statistically likely a successful fertilization and development is, several more embryos than what is necessary are created and preserved for those going through IVF. This is to increase the likelihood of creating a viable embryo, but as a result, several fertilized samples are placed in a cryogenic ‘limbo’, as they may not be necessary, but cannot be destroyed or disposed of under this new law. 

This creates incredible difficulties for the clinic and patients themselves, and reduces the accessibility of these resources towards individuals who may have IVF as their safest or only option for starting a family. 

As well, this opens the door to several hypocritical points of view and logical fallacies as the law can be applied selectively, opening a gray area in which questions of financial support, citizenship, natural rights and required care are brought into question. 

As the decision unfolds, we must stay vigilant and refuse to allow this legal mindset to inspire other states or higher legal entities to enforce the same protocols for the sake of women and healthcare workers nationwide.


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