Alabama Supreme Court Declares ‘Frozen Embryos Are Equivalent to Children’

Alabama Supreme Court Declares ‘Frozen Embryos Are Equivalent to Children’

The Alabama Supreme Court recently declared that frozen embryos are equivalent to children and held individuals accountable for their accidental destruction.

Following this ruling, the largest healthcare facility in Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system, has opted to suspend its in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) services. The decision stems from concerns regarding potential criminal prosecution that could arise from inadvertently damaging or destroying frozen embryos.

This lawsuit originated from a tragic incident in 2020 at a fertility clinic where three couples' embryos were accidentally destroyed. A person inadvertently accessed the area where the embryos were stored, mishandled them, and they were subsequently damaged beyond viability.

The couples pursued legal action against the Center for Reproductive Medicine and the Mobile Infirmary Association, citing the state's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Initially, a lower court dismissed the case, ruling that the embryos did not qualify as persons or children, thus precluding a wrongful death lawsuit.

However, the Alabama Supreme Court reached a different conclusion, siding with the couples and determining that frozen embryos should be legally regarded as "children".

According to the court's ruling, the state's wrongful death law encompassed "all unborn children, regardless of their location".

Chief Justice Tom Parker, concurring with the majority opinion, emphasized the inherent value of human life, stating, "Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be extinguished without erasing his glory."

Pro-life groups have voiced support for the court's decision, asserting that it reflects the belief that even the smallest embryos deserve legal protection.

The ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’, a Christian legal group, hailed the Alabama ruling as a "tremendous victory for life".

With the 2022 ruling by the US Supreme Court overturning a nationwide abortion right, individual states gained the authority to enact their own regulations regarding abortion.

Following this decision, states led by Democratic administrations have moved to enhance abortion access, while those under Republican control have pursued measures to limit it.

Alabama, having already implemented a comprehensive prohibition on abortion throughout all stages of pregnancy, maintained its stance on the matter.

Catholic view on IVF
The Church rejects IVF due to concerns over the significant loss of embryonic life, the distortion of the purpose of the marital act, and the commodification of children rather than recognizing them as gifts. Instead, it emphatically supports life, striving to safeguard the human embryo, viewing them as the most vulnerable among us (see Matthew 25:40).

The Magisterium has pronounced her main teachings on IVF in Donum Vitae (1987), Evangelium Vitae (1995), and Dignitas Personae (2008).

In 1987, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued Donum Vitae ("The Gift of Life"), addressing the ethical considerations surrounding modern fertility procedures. The document acknowledged that the use of technology to address infertility is not inherently wrong. Instead, it distinguished between moral and immoral methods based on whether they uphold the dignity of the human person and the institution of marriage.

Donum Vitae emphasized the obligation to protect all human life when couples utilize various reproductive technologies. While acknowledging the good intentions behind such efforts, the document cautioned against inadvertently causing harm to oneself or others.

Central to Donum Vitae's assessment of the morality of infertility treatments is a simple yet challenging principle: interventions that aid the natural marital act in achieving pregnancy are considered moral, while those that replace or bypass the marital act for procreation are deemed immoral.

Why IVF is Wrong
IVF is considered ethically problematic for several reasons. Firstly, human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, possess inherent dignity and should never be treated as mere means to an end, even to fulfill the desires of infertile couples. The marital act is an expression of love between spouses, not a mechanical process for producing offspring. Children are not commodities but gifts resulting from the loving union of spouses.

In IVF, children are conceived through a technical procedure, often subjected to quality assessments, and discarded if deemed imperfect. Their very creation is controlled by the decisions of individuals, usurping the natural order of conception. As stated in Donum Vitae, the connection between IVF and the destruction of human embryos is troubling, as it places life and death under human control, contrary to the natural order ordained by God.

The document emphasizes the right of every person to be conceived and born within the sanctity of marriage, where conception occurs through the marital act, inherently open to the possibility of new life, rather than through artificial manipulations.

Furthermore, the language used in discussions surrounding IVF, such as referring to children as "products" and the industry as "reproductive technology," underscores the dehumanizing aspects of these procedures. IVF can lead to the treatment of children as commodities rather than human beings with inherent dignity.
-Church teachings taken from USCCB

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