Republican governors say they support IVF after Alabama court ruling

Southern state ruling poses potential serious problems for couples who have had difficulty conceiving a child

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Women's and Infant Centre. The university has announced it will pause IVF treatments as it considers the legal consequences of the treatment. AP
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Two Republican governors on Thursday expressed support for in-vitro fertilisation after Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered people under state law.

The recent decision, issued in two wrongful death cases brought by couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident, could potentially leave clinics vulnerable to lawsuits and restrict access to treatment.

The Alabama ruling raises questions for providers and patients, including whether they can freeze future embryos created during fertility treatment or if patients could ever donate or destroy unused embryos.

IVF is a fertility treatment that involves retrieving a woman's eggs and combining them with sperm to create a fertilised embryo, which is then implanted in the uterus.

It is typically used to help couples who have been unsuccessful after at least a year of trying to become pregnant. The IVF treatment process involves several steps and success depends on numerous factors.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the state's largest health system, has already announced it would pause IVF treatments as it considers the legal consequences of the treatment.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, expressed his support for IVF, while also noting he had not yet looked at Alabama's ruling.

“You have a lot of people out there in this country that wouldn’t have children if it weren’t for that [IVF],” he said during a Politico event in Washington.

During the same event, Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signalled his support for IVF while adding that was also unaware of the details of Alabama's ruling.

Their comments differ from those of Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who said she believes embryos created through IVF were babies.

“When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that's a life. And so I do see where that's coming from when they talk about that,” she told NBC News on Wednesday.

In a separate interview with CNN later that day, Ms Haley said: “I didn't say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling.”

The ruling was the latest major decision on reproductive rights since the US Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that had granted women the right to an abortion.

“The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable,” US President Joe Biden said following the ruling.

“Make no mistake: this is a direct result of the overturning of Roe v Wade … We won’t stop until we restore the protections of Roe v Wade in federal law for all women in every state.”

Updated: February 22, 2024, 6:45 PM