Lawmakers promise action after Alabama IVF ruling

External view of the Alabama State House

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

One story dominated Alabama politics this past week – an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that found frozen embryos are considered children under a state civil law. The decision raised numerous questions and put thousands of fertility patients in limbo as at least three clinics in Alabama paused treatments for in vitro fertilization.

“This has been a big deal,” said Todd Stacy, host of Capitol Journal on Alabama Public Television.

Stacy discussed reaction from lawmakers and other action in the Alabama legislature this week.

Embryo ruling

Lawmakers began scrambling for ways to protect Alabama IVF services in the wake of the ruling and clinic pauses. Facing a wave of shock and anger from the decision, legislators prepared separate proposals in the House and Senate that would seek to prevent a fertilized egg from being recognized as a human life or an unborn child under state laws until it is implanted in a woman’s uterus.

“Alabamians strongly believe in protecting the rights of the unborn, but the result of the State Supreme Court ruling denies many couples the opportunity to conceive, which is a direct contradiction,” Republican House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said.

Republican state Sen. Tim Melson, who is a medical doctor, said his proposal seeks to clarify that a fertilized egg is a “potential life” and not a human life until it is implanted in the uterus.

“I’m just trying to come up with a solution for the IVF industry and protect the doctors and still make it available for people who have fertility issues that need to be addressed because they want to have a family,” Melson said.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, a Democrat, introduced legislation to clarify that a “human egg or human embryo that exists in any form outside of the uterus shall not, under any circumstances, be considered an unborn child” under state law.

“This is just the first step in unwinding this predicament our state has placed itself in,” Daniels said.

Stacy said the sponsor of Alabama’s abortion ban, which does not contain exceptions for rape or incest, never intended those efforts to affect IVF procedures.

“I look for the legislature to act on this because these headlines are really adding up,” Stacy said.

Diversity, equity and inclusion and “divisive concepts” bill

The Alabama Senate, in a party-line vote, backed a bill aimed at prohibiting universities, schools and public entities from maintaining diversity and inclusion offices or funding initiatives that teach what Republicans labeled as “divisive concepts.”

The multi-pronged proposal is one of dozens of bills introduced by Republican lawmakers across the country that would restrict initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion, also known as DEI.

“Republicans argue some of these DEI initiatives institute a ‘woke’ ideology,” Stacy said. “But Democrats pushed back aggressively saying these programs are needed not just in universities but in institutions like the legislature.”

The bill gives a list of divisive concepts, including that “any individual should accept, acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to apologize on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.”

The proposed legislation said schools could not fund initiatives that teach those concepts or require students and employees to attend “any training, orientation, or course work that advocates for or requires assent to a divisive concept.”

What is a woman?

Alabama lawmakers are advancing legislation that would strictly define who is considered female and male based on reproductive anatomy and says schools and local governments can establish single-sex spaces, such as bathrooms, based on those definitions.

“There are only two sexes, and every individual is either male or female,” declares the Senate bill approved in committee on Tuesday.

The bill states that a female is someone who, barring accident or anomaly, has a “reproductive system that at some point produces ova” and male as someone who, barring accident or anomaly, has a “reproductive system that at some point produces sperm.” The bill requires any state-supported entity collecting information related to sex to “identify each individual as either male or female at birth.”

“It is a definitions bill. It doesn’t really change the law in terms of any kind of legalities,” Stacy said. “It’s just defining into law for the purposes of other state laws.”

During a public hearing, opponents said the legislation is part of ongoing attacks on the rights of transgender people to simply go about their daily lives. It is not clear how the proposal would impact people who are considered intersex, or born with a combination of male and female biological traits. The committee added language that sex can be designated as unknown on state records “when sex cannot be medically determined for developmental or other reasons.”

Stacy predicted the bill would pass out of the House, with its fate to rest with the Senate.

“Last year this bill kind of died toward the end (of the session),” Stacy said. “There’s plenty of time this time around.”

Includes reporting from the Associated Press


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