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Alabama Supreme Court ruling says frozen embryos are children

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- IVF fertility treatments at Alabama's biggest hospital are now on hold after an unprecedented ruling by the state's supreme court, determined frozen embryos are children. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System said in a statement "We must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments."

Rebecca Mathews says "I never thought it would get to this point." Thousands of families like Rebecca Mathew's in Alabama are caught off guard. After multiple miscarriages, they turned to IVF freezing multiple embryos to maximize the likelihood of getting pregnant. Rebecca Mathews says "without IVF we would not have our two children." Mathews says they don't know what will happen to their remaining frozen embryo stored at another Alabama clinic.

Rebecca Mathews also says "the thing that's scary for us is if we choose to discard our embryo - could we be charged with something? Is that a criminal offense now? Is that murder?". Because Alabama's high court ruled frozen embryos qualify as people, anyone who discards them, which is a normal part of the IVF process could now face criminal charges. For doctors and clinics it's a legal liability that could force them to close their doors. A risk that reproductive rights advocates warned would be a ripple effect of the U.S. Supreme court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Matt Clary says "nobody has the answers of how do you navigate this." Clary and his wife froze their embryos and planned to start another round of IVF this summer at a separate clinic, now with so much uncertainty they're contemplating if they need to go through the process in another state. "What I'm really concerned about though is could we legally retrieve our embryos" said Matt Clary.

Legal experts say it's likely that more clinics in Alabama will pause IVF treatments as they try to understand the court's decision. Groups in state likes Florida are trying to follow Alabama's lead, arguing that frozen embryos are indeed children. This case could make its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it's not clear if the justices would take it up. 

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Gabby Hernandez


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