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Opinion | Alabama’s abortion philosophy was always leading to an IVF catastrophe

If lawmakers were truly steeped in anti-abortion philosophy, they should have known IVF would ultimately be a fly in the ointment.

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Imagine you are in an in vitro fertilization clinic that is on fire, and you have time to save only 100 frozen embryos or a single 2-year-old child.

This thought experiment has been used against anti-abortion advocates for years to challenge the philosophy that human life, and personhood, begins at conception by challenging how saving the toddler could possibly be consistent with the belief that the 100 IVF embryos are equally deserving of a right to life.

I personally believe, based on a combination of scientific and philosophical rationale, that personhood does begin at conception, and have even previously been involved in what we would call the “pro-life movement.”

But the truth is, the IVF situation has always been the elephant in the room for many of these anti-abortion advocates as the situation challenges the philosophy in ways that many people who call themselves “pro-life” would rather ignore.

But when you work to enshrine into law that the right to life begins at conception, there is no skirting the fact that eventually, IVF was always going to become an issue.

In its opinion on the case, the Alabama Supreme Court did something that “pro-lifers” do that has always irked me—it quoted Jeremiah 1:5. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

The scripture reference led State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, to mock the ruling in a since-deleted post on X that the court’s argument reads that the right to life begins before conception.

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And he was 100 percent right to make that observation. Whether “God knows you before he made you in the womb” has no relevance on law.

But although I often disagree with ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court, especially when it injects religion where it does not belong, I’m not sure whether the court is to blame here for reading the state’s declaration that “life begins at conception” to extend to IVF services.

This has always been an issue with the state’s thirst to overturn Roe v. Wade by any means necessary, consequences be damned. Abortion is by and large seen through a prism of politics and religion, especially by lawmakers who mostly know very little of the actual central arguments in one of the most hotly debated topics of our time.

Many of them also lack the compassion to understand that even if you believe life begins at conception, there are rights in the balance between woman and child, and finding a path to a better world for all does not come through brute force but gradual cultural change.

Alabama believes it’s abortion battle has been won, at least at a state level, but I believe the way in which we’ve gotten to this point has made any good faith arguments against abortion lost in the void, all credibility now shrouded by political posturing and control.

The obvious lack of understanding from state leaders that this IVF consequence was coming shows the short-sightedness they have had in preparing these policies; and it will continue to prove they have never given enough thought to their message to claim they actually ever believed it.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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