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Alabama Supreme Court rules IVF embryos are children

Containers holding frozen embryos and sperm stored in liquid nitrogen Associated Press/Photo by Lynne Sladky

Alabama Supreme Court rules IVF embryos are children

The court on Friday ruled that frozen, fertilized embryos created through in-vitro fertilization are considered children under state law. The majority opinion responded to an appeal from parents who had filed wrongful death lawsuits alleging negligence by the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center and the Center for Reproductive Medicine. That’s after an intruder broke into the facility and destroyed several fertilized embryos. 

Why did a lower court dismiss the case? The Mobile County Circuit Court ruled that plaintiffs would not be able to file charges under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act because the embryos had not been viably transferred into a uterus. The state’s Supreme Court has now overruled this verdict, affirming that all unborn children are considered children under the part of the state constitution called the Sanctity of Life Amendment. Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in the majority opinion that “the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is sweeping and unqualified,” applying “to all children, born and unborn, without limitation.”

What was the dissenting argument? Associate Justice Greg Cook argued that the court must consider the language of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act “as it was originally passed and understood in 1872.” Cook further argued that setting a legal precedent of treating frozen embryos as children would probably end the creation of frozen embryos through IVF in Alabama. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama filed a brief last year alleging that such a ruling would cause IVF costs to skyrocket. Cook was the only one of the nine-member court to file a full dissent with the majority opinion. Associate Justice William B. Sellers dissented with the majority opinion “in part" while partly concurring with the result.

Dig deeper: Read R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s column in WORLD Opinions on last week’s ruling.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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