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The Dangerous Future Precedent of Alabama’s Recent IVF Ruling

Trigger Warning: This article discusses topics of women’s health, abortion, and struggles with pregnancy. It was only two years ago that the landmark “Roe v Wade” case in favor of abortion access was overturned. Since being overturned, many states have considered more restrictive abortion access. Many southern states in the U.S have already enacted laws that ban abortion 6 weeks or later after conception. Overturning “Roe V. Wade” has led states to decide what is considered a “person.” The state of Alabama recently ruled in court that a frozen embryo is considered a person. The decision will no doubt have detrimental effects on the future of women’s healthcare. It can only be imagined how the Alabama ruling will set precedent in the future. On Friday, February 16th, the Alabama supreme court ruled that frozen embryos are considered as people. Since then, the effects of the ruling are being felt all over the country. Many women and their healthcare providers are lost on how to respond. Many women seeking IVF treatment are looking for options in other states. Their doctors are lost on how to best help their patients who are having trouble conceiving on their own. Especially women who have trouble conceiving on their own are left feeling vulnerable and trapped about the ruling. The effects are already starting to affect the lives of people living in the state after the ruling. It is shown that this decision affects people from all over the country. Aria Bendix wrote and article for “NBC News” about the effects of the ruling. The article spoke of one woman’s story, Gabby Goidel. Bendix wrote, “Most of our embryos are not going to be genetically normal," said Goidel, a 26-year-old property manager in Auburn. "My hope would be that we could let those embryos naturally pass, but now it’s, 'Do we have to save them?' I don’t necessarily want to implant a child that I know is going to miscarry.”” (Bendix). Stories like Mrs. Goidel’s are not unheard of in this country. Women like her all over Alabama now live in fear of what their options might. That is, if they have any options at this point. Doctors in Alabama are just as lost as their patients on what to do. Sara Moniuszko wrote an article for “CBS”. She interviewed a doctor in Alabama, Dr. Mari Mitrani about the Alabama ruling. Moniuszko wrote, “"This poses a threat to embryologists, fertility doctors, lab technicians and all fertility healthcare providers in Alabama," Mitrani said. "The local medical professionals will be exposed to unlikely consequences due to this ruling, when helping their patients.” (Moniuszko). Dr. Mitrani said this quote since the ruling opened the ability for doctors to be sued for destroying embryos. The general conclusion is that few doctors in the state of Alabama will be willing to perform IVF treatments in the future. The ruling has had a big enough effect that The University of Alabama at Birmingham has paused their work on IVF treatments. The effects of this ruling are leading to a horror story for women’s healthcare. If Alabama has already made this ruling, other states might make the same if not similar rulings. It was shortly after one state restricted access to abortion care that other states followed. The precedent was set, and many conservative states took the opportunity. If we are to assume that the Alabama ruling will set a precedent, the future of women’s access to health is at risk. Priscilla Smith, from the program for the Study of Reproductive Justice was quoted by Aria Bendix for NBC. Smith said, “"The next step will be to say, 'Well, if an embryo is a person [outside the uterus], clearly it's a person in utero,"” (Smith). Smith’s quote spells out the main fear that comes from this ruling. The precedent set can continue to say that an embryo in any stage is a person. The ruling could continue to incriminate women who have a miscarriage. Women, as a result, are feeling more vulnerable than ever about their options about pregnancy. For now, the threat seems to be manageable for the women in Alabama. Women in Alabama affected by this ruling are finding innovative ideas. Some women are considering sending their frozen eggs to other states. Other women are considering moving away from Alabama to a state that would allow them better IVF treatment. Either way, women are being forced to make tough decisions. It’s a decision that has been waiting to happen for 2 years. It’s difficult to not trace this decision back to the overturning of the famous “Roe v. Wade” case. Since the overturning of “Roe V. Wade” 21 states have either outright banned or restricted women’s access to abortion care. NPR (National Public Radio) in 2023 had an interview that reported that four states have used “fetal personhood” to arrest women. This means that within a year of the “Roe V. Wade” case overturn, states were already arresting women seeking abortion care. This is not where the reach of anti-abortion laws stopped. Some states moved on to debating the definition of “personhood.” We’re seeing that Alabama is far from the only state considering the question of “personhood.” In 2024, Celine Castronuovo for “Bloomberg Law” reported that, “Future lawsuits to clarify fetal personhood through wrongful death laws is a path forward for anti-abortion groups, Cohen said. Attempts to grant personhood rights to fetuses have so far failed via ballot initiatives in Colorado, Mississippi, and North Dakota” (Castronuovo). We’re seeing how anti-abortion groups have been trying to strengthen anti-abortion laws since the “Roe V. Wade” overturn. We can see that the attempt to define “personhood” to cover infants does not work in every case. Simply seeing the attempt to further restrict women’s options for pregnancy is a threat to abortion care. In conclusion, we have a severe problem concerning women’s healthcare. What we’re seeing is a serious restriction on women’s healthcare. Not only are women being kept from the right to choose, but women might be sued for events beyond their control. Women who are either having trouble conceiving or making the choice to freeze their eggs are now able to be sued for what is done to the eggs. These are things that not all women have the chance to decide over. We can also see how the right to abortion care and IVF treatment are connected. The amount of anti-abortion laws has risen since 2022. The problem with this is how women are having options for healthcare taken away. Rulings like Alabama’s are ones that affect all women in the country. It can only be assumed that politics played a role in this decision. We can only hope that the future will see women never feeling this vulnerable and afraid again.

Photo Taken by Pixabay

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