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Opinion | ALSC decision is a chilling halt to reproductive freedom

The decisions being made today are only further contributing to our state’s healthcare crisis.

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When I first ran for Congress in 2018, I knew the outlook was grim. Alabama had one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country. Rural hospitals were closing across the state every single day. Women of color were dying at three times the rate of white women during childbirth. My attempts to sound the alarm fell upon too many deaf ears.

Since then, I have been there to support some of my closest friends as they received devastating news regarding their family planning. From multiple miscarriages to failed IVF treatments, so many of our closest neighbors are grappling with the difficulties of building the life —and family— they desire. With the chilling Supreme Court Decision regarding embryos this week, many of our fellow Alabamians are facing a different kind of heartbreak—this time, it is at the hands of Alabama’s political elite. 

Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. I am profoundly saddened by what this means for not only our friends and communities but also for the future of fertility care and reproductive freedom across the country. So far, two of our state’s largest fertility treatment providers, The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and Alabama Fertility Services, have already made the difficult decision to halt IVF treatments. 

IVF has long been a beacon of hope for countless individuals struggling with infertility; a medical marvel that has enabled so many to fulfill their dreams of parenthood.  And yet, the Alabama Supreme Court ruling declaring frozen embryos can be legally considered children, has extinguished that hope for thousands of hopeful parents. My heart breaks for the families waiting for their embryo transfer, after spending thousands of dollars as a result of any number of situations that led them to seek out IVF treatment in the first place. 

As someone looking to start a family soon, and technically in the age range for a geriatric pregnancy, I’m scared to know that my options for having a child are now further limited. 

This decision not only places a legal label on frozen embryos but also adds an unprecedented layer of complexity to the already sensitive landscape. The idea that frozen embryos, stored with the intention of future family building, can be equated to living children raises profound ethical and legal questions. Can these embryos obtain insurance? Are families forced to store embryos indefinitely?  Can embryos be considered in estate planning and other family law proceedings? How are embryos to be counted on a census? Could families claim embryos on their taxes? 

Friday, however, I  saw a glimmer of hope. Thanks to Representatives Anthony Daniels (HD-53), Prince Chestnut (HD-67), Curtis Travis (HD-72), Ontario Tillman (HD-56), and Peblin Warren (HD- 82), we may be able to right this wrong through their proposal of House Bill 225.  

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House Bill 225: Relating to unborn children; to provide that any fertilized human egg or human embryo that exists outside of a human uterus is not considered an unborn child or human being for any purpose under state law. 

We have an opportunity to show up, loudly, for basic common sense and our collective rights. I urge all Alabamians to contact your representatives and ask them to think critically about how this Supreme Court ruling has impacted families across the state. And then, ask them to support HB225. 

I want Alabama to be a place where young people can thrive and live a healthy, prosperous life. I want people to be able to see the gorgeous state that I grew up in and all the good that we bring to the world. I want people of all beliefs and backgrounds to have the hope of a brighter future through family planning and IVF. However, right now, none of those things are possible. 

Instead, the decisions being made today are only further contributing to our state’s healthcare crisis and declining quality of life. Not to mention, we are showing outside industry, investors, and potential workers around the country why Alabama should not be their future home. 

It doesn’t have to be this way, but we have to course correct through HB225 before it’s too late. 

Mallory Hagan is a former Miss America and a Democratic candidate for House District 25 in northern Alabama.

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