Josh Morgan, USA TODAY

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On February 20, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos used for in vitro fertilization treatments are legally recognized as children. This follows the state’s 2018 constitutional amendment to include personhood rights for fetuses.

The ruling casts uncertainty over the future of IVF treatments, and could potentially become a new election-year battleground issue pertaining to parents, pro-life, and religious voters.

The case pertained to an Alabama fertility clinic where the embryos of three couples were accidentally destroyed, after which the couples brought wrongful death lawsuits against the clinic. The court sided with the couples, ruling that Alabama's 1872 law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child "applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location."

In response, at least two IVF clinics in the state paused treatments.

At the national level, few politicians rushed to voice support for the Alabama ruling. President Joe Biden called the ruling "outrageous and unacceptable" and deemed it a "direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade."

His expected opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald Trump, also voiced support for IVF treatment, stating, "I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious little beautiful baby. I support it" and calling on Alabama lawmakers to "act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama."

An article in BBC News (Center bias) broke down why the IVF ruling presents challenges for Trump, writing, "Forty-two percent of Americans have either used IVF treatments or known someone who did, according to a Pew Survey last year. That percentage rises with increased earnings - 45% among middle-income Americans and 59% for those with high-incomes. Those individuals are more likely to be white Americans who vote Republican, and many are ones whom Mr Trump is hoping to bring back into the political fold after losing their support in 2020. The IVF controversy could well frustrate that effort."

A writer in USA Today (Lean Left bias) agreed that the IVF issue will compound political struggles for Republicans, stating, “Abortion has been a losing issue for Republicans since Roe fell. Infringing on IVF and contraception will be more of the same.” Outlining the party’s internal divide on reproductive issues, the writer determined Republicans are “caught between public sentiment about reproductive rights and conservative institutions like the Heritage Foundation.” This will spell trouble in upcoming elections, the writer concluded. “It's bad policy. And it's bad politics. And they will own it from now till November.”

A writer in the Daily Signal (Right bias) outlined the court case that led to the decision and affirmed the ruling, arguing that it “rightly places the well-being of children front and center in how clinics practice in vitro fertilization and embryo cryopreservation” and “recognizes that each child is created in the image of God and therefore deserves the full force of the law’s protections.” The writer expressed hope that other states will issue rulings similar to the Alabama decision, concluding, “Alabama has taken the first step toward extending personhood to all human beings, no matter how small.”

A writer for Vox (Left bias) navigated the implications of the ruling, determining that the “right to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization will be the next to fall.” The article addressed concerns from some healthcare providers, who explained that “the destruction of at least some embryos is a normal part of IVF” and the court’s ruling could drastically increase the cost of IVF treatment since “medical facilities may have to pay outlandish costs to store frozen embryos long after it is clear that no one will ever use them.”

A writer in the Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) determined IVF “enjoys widespread political support across both sides of the aisle” and that there “may be little political or moral appetite to confront the problems presented by IVF.” Despite this, the writer determined the Alabama ruling “laid bare the fundamental ethical and moral problems with IVF,” arguing it “treats the creation of a child as a commodity to be bought and sold,” “opens the door for a eugenic approach to creating new human beings,” and creates a culture where “human beings can be bought, sold, and killed, even at the earliest stage of development.” Beyond 2024, the writer concluded, “It is a problem that will not go away.”

As for now in Alabama, the attorney general reportedly has "no intention" of prosecuting clinics or families engaging in IVF treatments, and Alabama lawmakers are reportedly working on a bill that would prevent an embryo from being categorized as a human life until it is implanted in a woman's uterus.

Top words about IVF used more on each side of the media.
Analysis from Partisan Playground; Media Bias Ratings from AllSides

More from the Right

Parents, Not the Government, Should Make IVF Decisions
Reason (opinion)

"The sorry history of anti-miscegenation and forced sterilization laws in the U.S. provides ample evidence that preemptive government interference in the reproductive decisions of its citizens should be strongly rejected. In a free society, the default should be that individuals are best situated for weighing the costs and benefits, moral and material, with respect to how, when, with whom, and whether they choose to become parents."

More from the Center

Republicans Seem Hesitant To Support Alabama IVF Ruling—As Democrats Say It’s Their Fault

"The Biden campaign placed the blame for the Alabama Supreme Court decision squarely on former President Donald Trump for appointing conservative Supreme Court justices to who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022, arguing the decision paved the way for the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision."

More from the Left

The massive legal fallout from Alabama’s IVF ruling is just the beginning
MSNBC (opinion)

"Strikingly absent from the court’s decision, however, is a meaningful discussion of what the decision means for those who seek to become parents – or for those who don’t. But though the court ignored those consequences, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The dangers of the Alabama ruling go far beyond its implications for IVF. It’s clear that as much as the court discusses personhood, not everyone’s will count."

See more big stories from the past week.