AL GOP Seeks Immunity For Doctors After IVF Ruling

Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature is swiftly working towards a compromise to restore access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) after a recent state Supreme Court decision caused clinics to suspend operations. The court ruling declared that frozen embryos should be considered children, leading to a pause in IVF services and sparking a nationwide debate on the topic.

In response, Republican lawmakers have introduced new state legislation that would provide doctors who perform IVF with immunity from civil and criminal prosecution. This move aims to offer clinics the necessary legal cover to resume providing IVF services. However, the proposed bill falls short of an earlier draft, which suggested that embryos created during the IVF process but not implanted in the uterus should be classified as “potential life” rather than “human life.”

The proposed bill states, “No suit, action, or criminal prosecution shall be brought or maintained against any entity or individual providing goods or services related to in vitro fertilization, except for an omission or intentional act not related to or arising from IVF services.”

This legislative proposal comes just over a week after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be legally considered children under a state law covering wrongful deaths of minors. As a result, three fertility clinics temporarily halted their operations. The decision has placed Republicans in a challenging position, as it adds to the ongoing messaging battle surrounding abortion. Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, has expressed support for a solution that allows IVF services to resume in the state.

Governor Ivey stated on Tuesday that lawmakers are diligently working on the issue, and she anticipates receiving a bill on her desk soon. However, the proposed measure is set to expire on April 1, 2025, making it a temporary stopgap solution. Many believe that a more permanent fix will be necessary. A state constitutional amendment, approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and voters in 2018, includes language recognizing the rights of an “unborn child,” which the Supreme Court relied upon in its ruling.

The proposed law offers fertility clinics the necessary guidance to restart their operations. However, certain specialists contend that it might not cover every conceivable situation. Jessica Arons, Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU, points out, “The presence of personhood terminology in the constitution leaves open the possibility for a court inclined to disrupt individuals’ lives, as seen with this court, to do so again.”

House and Senate have introduced their versions of the legislation, with House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter’s spokesperson, Charles Murry, stating that the aim is to “fast track” the bill to Governor Ivey’s desk.

The Alabama decision has caught the attention of Democrats, who view it as an opportunity to make abortion rights a central issue in their 2024 campaigns. They aim to replicate the electoral successes they experienced after the Dobbs case.