Just three weeks after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered children, lawmakers in that state passed legislation that shields both patients and providers who use in vitro fertilization (IVF) from civil and criminal liability.

Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed the bill into law shortly after it was passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

Following the signing, two major fertility clinics said they will restart IVF treatments while another clinic said the scope of protections was unclear and it would wait for “legal clarification,” the New York Times reported.

Lawmaker support for the bill was strong — 81 to 12, with nine abstentions, in the House and 29 to 1 in the Senate, the Times reported.

Why was the legislation passed so quickly?

The state Supreme Court ruling raised fears about civil and criminal liability among infertility doctors and clinics.

Shortly after the ruling was issued, at least three major clinics stopped IVF treatments and an embryo shipping company paused its business in the state, the Times reported. Meanwhile, IVF patients pleaded with lawmakers and protested to preserve their right to grow their families.

The new law stops short of addressing whether a frozen embryo conceived outside of the womb should be considered a person. Instead, it broadly shields clinics and IVF providers from civil and criminal liability.

“The problem we’re trying to solve right now is to get those families back on a track to be moving forward as they try to have children,” said State Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the measure in the House. “Will we need to address that issue? Probably.”

“I don’t want to define life — that’s too important to me, to my faith,” Collins told the Times. “But we do have to decide where we begin protection, and that’s what I think we’ll have to talk about.”

Meanwhile, Infirmary Health Systems and the Center for Reproductive Medicine, the targets in the wrongful death lawsuit that led to the state Supreme Court ruling, said it would not yet resume IVF treatments, the Times reported.

“At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own,” a statement from the clinic said.

Experts agreed that the legal picture on IVF is still murky.

“The question that’s answered by this bill is, are our fertility clinics liable?” Clare Ryan, a professor of family law at the University of Alabama, told the Times. “It doesn’t address these bigger questions about, what is the child? When does the act of conception occur? What is the role of uterine implantation?”

“Republicans created this mess for themselves, and now they’re trying to contain the damage from it without dealing with the mess itself,” said Susan Pace Hamill, a University of Alabama law professor who specializes in the state Constitution, told the Times. “They are doing back somersaults to avoid disturbing directly anything the Alabama Supreme Court said.”

More information

Visit Yale Medicine for more on IVF.

SOURCE: New York Times

Source: HealthDay

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