Alabama clinic suspends IVF treatment after court rules embryos are babies

An Alabama medical center has stopped all IVF treatments after a court ruled that embryos are babies.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), an academic medical center, suspended its IVF treatments so it could consider the legal repercussions of the decision, made by the state’s supreme court.

The ruling was made in a case where a person wandered into an unlocked storage area at a fertility clinic and dropped several frozen embryos on the floor.

The court determined that failing to secure that storage area violated the state’s Wrongful Death Act – which says an unjustified or negligent act that leads to someone’s death is a civil offense – because the frozen embryos were considered human beings.

The ruling has left both IVF providers and patients unsure of how the law might be interpreted in future cases.

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.

“If this is now a person, will we be able to freeze embryos?” Barbara Collura, chief executive of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said.

Hannah Echols, a UAB spokesperson, said: “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but 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.”

UAB will continue to offer egg retrieval, the process of collecting eggs from one or both ovaries but will no longer fertilize eggs or develop embryos.