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Alabama ruling ‘sets a dangerous precedent,’ legislation would protect access to IVF

Rebecca Barnabi
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(© Chinnapong – stock.adobe.com)

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger today backed bipartisan legislation to protect every American’s right to access in-vitro fertilization following the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos are children under the law.

On Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos, also known as “extrauterine children,” are covered under the state’s wrongful death of a minor law. Since the ruling, three of the seven total IVF clinics in Alabama, including the state’s largest hospital, University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, have stopped providing treatment and halted IVF procedures.

The Spanberger-backed Access to Family Building Act would codify under federal law the right to access assisted reproductive technology (ART) services, including IVF. The legislation would pre-empt any state effort to limit such access and make sure no hopeful parents — or their doctors — are punished for trying to start or grow a family.

“As a mom to three young daughters and someone who has supported loves ones through the heartbreak of pregnancy loss, I’m devastated for the women whose struggles with infertility and dreams of experiencing the joys of motherhood are now even more difficult to overcome and realize,” Spanberger said. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, extreme politicians and judges have been working overtime to strip away the rights of a woman and her family to make their own reproductive healthcare and family planning decisions. More than six million women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant — and hundreds of thousands of hopeful women and couples turn to IVF and other treatments each year to have children. This ruling sets a dangerous precedent — and I will do all that I can to protect the ability of hopeful parents in Virginia and across our country to decide if, when, and how to start or grow their family.”

The Access to Family Building Act would: 

  • Establish a statutory right for an individual to access, without prohibition or unreasonable limitation or interference, assisted reproductive technology services, such as IVF, and for a healthcare provider to provide ART services;
  • Establish an individual’s statutory right regarding the use or disposition of their reproductive genetic materials, including gametes;
  • Allow the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue civil action against any state, government official, individual, or entity that violates protections in the legislation; and
  • Create a private right of action for individuals and healthcare providers in states that have limited access to ART.

The Access to Family Building Act is led in the U.S. House by U.S. Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania. Companion legislation is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Patty Murray of Washington.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.