March 6, 2024

Reaction to the Alabama Supreme Court Ruling on IVF Embryos

In 2020, three Alabama couples sued their clinic because the clinic accidently destroyed their embryos. In all 50 states, a couple could sue for damages to their property. But these couples sued for “wrongful death,” stating that their children had been killed.  On February 16, 2024 the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the embryos were indeed children, and therefore the couples could sue not only for property damages, but greater damages that one may expect if a child were accidentally killed.  The chief justice Tom Parker wrote in his opinion, “Life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

Nightlight Christian Adoptions Snowflakes® Program strongly advocates for personhood at conception, and therefore supports the sentiment of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision upholding life.

The only clear precedent that is set by this decision is the ability in Alabama to sue for damages for accidentally destroying embryos under the grounds of wrongful death.  It is not clear that there would be more far-reaching consequences, such as limiting IVF in the state.  There is not necessarily a legislative or judicial reason to think that embryo storage or embryo creation will be driven out of the state of Alabama, but it is reasonable to suspect that the private market will make this decision. In other words, reproductive endocrinologists and embryo storage facilities may decide on their own that the risk of lawsuits is too great in Alabama, so they may choose to locate elsewhere.

Protection of life at conception is an uncomplicated good.

In the field of adoption we have the adage, “We are finding families for children, not children for families.”

As I read the media response to the “threat” that IVF could possibly face, at least in Alabama, I keep thinking of that important phrase above.

While some practices of IVF may be in a “grey area,” (and other IVF practices are more clearly wrong), I think the entire discussion needs to be situated within the realm of CHILD’S RIGHTS, and not PARENTS RIGHTS.   Just like with abortion, the media keeps focusing on the rights of adults.  IVF, as with all artificial reproductive technology, does begin with an adults-rights perspective.  It’s not until messes are created that people start thinking about the child’s-rights.

To the extent any of us has influence, I hope we can remind people that our primary concern is not “the right to have a child” but the “right for a child to have a family.”

Daniel Nehrbass, PhD | President

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