Alabama rules embryos are babies

Well, that ole Neil Young song is just getting more and more relevant. You'd hope that topical political songs would become naturally outdated. Like the Dead Kennedys. Or Black Flag. They sing about topics that aren't relevant anymore, right? …right?

Well, anyway, embryos are now babies in Alabama. Why?

The Alabama ruling, which was released Friday, stems from two lawsuits filed by three sets of parents who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to have babies and then opted to have the remaining embryos frozen.

The parents allege in December 2020, a patient at the Mobile hospital where the frozen embryos were being stored walked into the fertility clinic through an "unsecured doorway," and removed several embryos from the cryogenic nursery, the state's Supreme Court ruling said. The patient's hand was "freeze-burned" by the extremely low temperatures the embryos were stored in and the patient dropped them on the floor, killing them, according to the ruling.

The parents sued for wrongful death but a trial court dismissed their claims, finding the "cryopreserved, in vitro embryos involved in this case do not fit within the definition of a 'person' or 'child,'" according to the ruling.

But in a stunning reversal last week, the state Supreme Court disagreed, noting "extrauterine children" – or, unborn children "located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed" – are children, and they are covered under the state's Wrongful Death of a Minor law.

Christina Maxouris, CNN

Weird. This seems like it stemmed from an opportunistic law firm's manipulation of… a security issue? Surely if the door was locked, there'd be no need for a full on lawsuit resulting in the personification of frozen sperm (plus some other steps, I know, I know)? Maybe I'm missing something. Is discarded sperm left to dry in a sock going to be deemed a crime now, too? Now, Alabama, Mississippi, all of youse, please don't take this as inspiration.

It's only going to get harder for people seeking IVF now.

The Alabama Medical Association, which also weighed in prior to the court's decision, warned such a ruling would create an "enormous potential for civil liability" for fertility specialists, because embryos can be damaged or become unsuitable for pregnancy at any time during an IVF process, including when they are being thawed.

And the ruling could mean parents cannot opt to discard embryos, which happens for a number of reasons, including divorce or the death of one of the two, the association said.

That would cause "embryos to remain in cryogenic storage even after the couple who underwent the IVF treatment have died and potentially even after the couple's children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren have died," the state's medical association wrote in an amicus brief.

Christina Maxouris, CNN

What a sad, weird, riveting dystopia.