Sarah Stewart wins Republican race to lead Alabama Supreme Court, weeks after frozen embryo ruling

A judge's gavel

Quince Creative, Pixabay

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republicans in Alabama chose Justice Sarah Stewart on Tuesday as their nominee to lead the state Supreme Court, after the justices vaulted into the national spotlight last month for their decision to recognize frozen embryos as children.

Stewart defeated Bryan Taylor, a former state senator and legal adviser to two governors, to secure the GOP nomination. She will face Circuit Judge Greg Griffin, a Democrat from Montgomery, in November. The current chief justice is retiring due to age limits.

Stewart was among the justices who ruled couples could pursue lawsuits for the wrongful death of a minor child and their frozen embryos were destroyed in a fertility clinic accident.

The court’s decision touched off a furor and raised concerns about civil liabilities for fertility clinics. Women in Alabama saw their appointments canceled and their path to parenthood put in doubt after three major clinics paused IVF services in response to the decision. Nationally, Democrats sought to rally their base by portraying it as an example of extreme conservative positions in the aftermath Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Alabama lawmakers have been debating legislation to shield clinics from legal liability, including legislation passed by Senate and House committees on the day of the primary.

Stewart joined a concurring opinion written by Associate Justice Greg Shaw that the wrongful death law covers “an unborn child with no distinction between in vitro or in utero.” Shaw added that all three branches of state government are bound to follow a provision in the Alabama Constitution in 2018 saying it is state policy to recognize “the rights of unborn children.”

By citing verses from the Bible and Christian theologians in his concurring opinion, Chief Justice Tom Parker alarmed advocates for church-state separation, while delighting religious conservatives who oppose abortion.

In Alabama, the chief justice serves on the state’s highest court, and also serves as the administrative head of the state court system.

Parker cannot run again because state law prohibits judges from being elected or appointed after age 70.


Once praised, settlement to help sickened BP oil spill workers leaves most with nearly nothing

Thousands of ordinary people who helped clean up after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say they got sick. A court settlement was supposed to help compensate them, but it hasn’t turned out as expected.

Q&A: How harm reduction can help mitigate the opioid crisis

Maia Szalavitz discusses harm reduction's effectiveness against drug addiction, how punitive policies can hurt people who need pain medication and more.

The Gulf States Newsroom is hiring a Community Engagement Producer

The Gulf States Newsroom is seeking a curious, creative and collaborative professional to work with our regional team to build up engaged journalism efforts.

Gambling bills face uncertain future in the Alabama legislature

This year looked to be different for lottery and gambling legislation, which has fallen short for years in the Alabama legislature. But this week, with only a handful of meeting days left, competing House and Senate proposals were sent to a conference committee to work out differences.

Alabama’s racial, ethnic health disparities are ‘more severe’ than other states, report says

Data from the Commonwealth Fund show that the quality of care people receive and their health outcomes worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s your favorite thing about Alabama?

That's the question we put to those at our recent News and Brews community pop-ups at Hop City and Saturn in Birmingham.

More Front Page Coverage