A second Alabama IVF provider pauses parts of its program after court ruling on frozen embryos

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A second in vitro fertilization provider in Alabama is pausing parts of its care to patients after the state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are legally considered children.

Alabama Fertility Services said in a statement Thursday that has “made the impossibly difficult decision to hold new IVF treatments due to the legal risk to our clinic and our embryologists.”

The decision comes a day after the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system said in a statement that it was pausing IVF treatments so it could evaluate whether its patients or doctors could face criminal charges or punitive damages.

“We are contacting patients that will be affected today to find solutions for them and we are working as hard as we can to alert our legislators as to the far reaching negative impact of this ruling on the women of Alabama,” Alabama Fertility said. “AFS will not close. We will continue to fight for our patients and the families of Alabama.”

Doctors and patients have been grappling with shock and fear this week as they try to determine what they can and can’t do after the ruling by the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court that raises questions about the future of IVF.

Alabama Fertility Services’ decision left Gabby Goidel, who was days from an expected egg retrieval, calling clinics across the South looking for a place to continue IVF care.

“I freaked out. I started crying. I felt in an extreme limbo state. They did not have all the answers. I did not obviously any answers,” Goidel said.

The Alabama ruling came down Friday, the same day Goidel began a 10-day series of injections ahead of egg retrieval, with the hopes of getting pregnant through IVF next month. She found a place in Texas that will continue her care and plans to travel there Thursday night.

Goidel experienced three miscarriages and she and her husband turned to IVF as a way of fulfilling their dream of becoming parents.

“It’s not pro-family in any way,” Goidel said of the Alabama ruling.

Dr. Michael C. Allemand, a reproductive endocrinologist at Alabama Fertility, said Wednesday that IVF is often the best treatment for patients who desperately want a child, and the ruling threatens doctors’ ability to provide that care.

“The moments that our patients are wanting to have by growing their families — Christmas mornings with grandparents, kindergarten, going in the first day of school, with little backpacks— all that stuff is what this is about. Those are the real moments that this ruling could deprive patients of,” he said.

Justices — citing language in the Alabama Constitution that the state recognizes the “rights of the unborn child” — said three couples could sue for wrongful death when their frozen embryos were destroyed in a accident at a storage facility.

“Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority ruling. Mitchell said the court had previously ruled that a fetus killed when a woman is pregnant is covered under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and nothing excludes “extrauterine children from the Act’s coverage.”

While the court case centered on whether embryos were covered under the wrongful death of a minor statute, some said treating the embryo as a child — rather than property — could have broader implications and call into question many of the practices of IVF.

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