Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are unborn children

 February 22, 2024

In a significant ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court declared frozen embryos to be legally classified as unborn children under state law, thereby potentially holding accountable individuals who cause their destruction.

This verdict stemmed from a case involving the Center for Reproductive Medicine, which faced scrutiny under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act following an incident where a patient mishandled and destroyed multiple couples' frozen embryos during a 2020 episode.

The ruling

The court's decision overturned a previous ruling by a lower court, which did not recognize frozen embryos as unborn children.

The Alabama Supreme Court turned to the Sanctity of Unborn Life Amendment, a constitutional amendment passed in 2018, which affirmed the state's commitment to acknowledging the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children as a matter of public policy.

Central to the court's reasoning was its interpretation of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, which it deemed applicable to all unborn children, regardless of their stage of development or location.

Justices emphasized the Act's broad scope, which extends legal protection to both born and unborn children without exception.

Differing opinions

Justice Tom Parker, in a concurring opinion, invoked religious principles, asserting the sanctity of unborn life and its significance in the eyes of God.

Parker emphasized that human life, even before birth, bears the image of God and should not be destroyed without consequences.

Justice Gregory Cook dissented, expressing apprehensions about the potential impact of the ruling on in vitro fertilization (IVF) practices in Alabama.

Cook warned that the decision could potentially stifle IVF procedures in the state, raising concerns about its implications for reproductive medicine.

He cautioned that the ruling might discourage individuals from pursuing IVF treatments due to legal uncertainties surrounding the handling of frozen embryos.

The impact

In response to Cook's dissent, Parker suggested that the Alabama Legislature could address regulatory gaps in the IVF field by enacting specific laws governing reproductive technologies. He acknowledged the historical lack of comprehensive regulation in the IVF sector, likening it to the "Wild West," and underscored the need for legislative action to provide clarity and oversight.

The court's ruling reflects its interpretation of existing laws and constitutional principles, as well as its commitment to upholding the sanctity of unborn life.

While sparking debate and controversy, the decision sets a precedent for the legal treatment of frozen embryos in Alabama and underscores the complex intersection of reproductive rights, medical ethics, and legal considerations.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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